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Politics of scale and strategic selectivity in the liberalisation of public services – the role of trade in services

By Werner Raza. One of the most contentious issues of the neoliberal agenda has been the privatisation of public services. The WTO GATS negotiations over the liberalisation of trade in services, which commenced in the year 2000, led to a strongly contested debate over whether the international level would provide an additional channel for the privatisation of public services. In particular, the position of the European Union was criticised for promoting this agenda. More recently, this question has regained its significance with the start of negotiations for the Trade in Services Agreement and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Thus, this article seeks to analyse the politics of scale in the field of trade in services and its specific impact upon the liberalisation of public services. By applying a Neo-Poulantzian IPE approach, we propose a typology of (i) scalar forms in trade policy and (ii) of particular liberalisation strategies. Our results suggest that the multilateral level is but one element in a strategic politics of scale, with the former primarily fulfilling the role of locking-in liberalisation gains achieved at other levels, while other scalar forms, in particular bi- and plurilateralism, are primarily used to progressively advance the liberalisation agenda. KEYWORDS: Public services, liberalisation, trade in services, politics of scale, Poulantzas

state owned enterprises

State owned enterprises are deprecated as "monopolies" officially, a word which makes creating new ones FTA-illegal, except in dire emergencies in WTO members, The WTO (and also associated but separate agreements such as the US backed TISA which is supposed to be merged with the WTO GATS eventually) is attempting to privatize all of them eventually. So they are framed as a quasi-crime, a sort of theft of profitmaking entitlements from business. Similarly, that means all businesses everywhere, and their workers may be included in the entitlement, its not limited by country.

"Biden Cuts Social Security" (The Intercept) Actually, its the GATS agreement we signed more than two decades ago, and the TISA that they probably will revive soon that do it. Medicare is likely to get the same treatment too. See elsewhere on this site.

The Intercept (the destination of the link) doesn't mention this but GATS (and TISA, which is likely to be revived) makes all deregulation in committed services (like financial services) permanent (Yes, both are considered to be in competition with the banking and insurance industries - financial services) Making cuts so costly and difficult to reverse they will become permanent. This has been planned for a long time as shown by the trade literature. here is lots on this site. Voters should refuse to swallow this rigged Kool Aid. Oh, but everything that happens in the WTO is not subject to voting.

Public services and the GATS, WTO Staff Working Paper, No. ERSD-2005-03, World Trade Organization (WTO), Geneva

Adlung, Rolf (2005) Adlung is a WTO employee. The EU's social safety net is under attack. Partly due to neoliberal construction via FTAs of a new corporate "right of establishment" that nullifies rights to healthcare and education that have never been created in laws as we would hope. Also WTO rules allegedly against "discrimination" ironically are a tool that's being used to dismantle policies and laws against discrimination in countries like the US.

When Worlds Collide: Implications of International Trade and Investment Agreements for Non-Profit Social Services

Although Canada has vowed that its domestic social policies will not be compromised by its international trade obligations, it has also been a leading exponent of increasing trade liberalization in the services sector. Unless great caution is taken in the current WTO and FTAA negotiations, this ambivalence could expose many of our social programs to trade-driven privatization and commercialization. Authors Andrew Jackson and Matt Sanger describe in detail the policy implications of these trade treaty talks. They demonstrate the need to strengthen and improve the protections now afforded our social services, many of which--from child care to elder care--are delivered by not-for-profit social service agencies funded by governments, rather than directly by governments. When these services are exposed to trade and investment treaties, the few limited protections provided to direct public sector programs may not apply. Only clear and forceful treaty terms can minimize the risk of trade challenges that could disrupt and undermine these important services The worlds of trade policy and social policy are very different. When they collide, as they inevitably will in the negotiations to expand the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), it will take great diligence on the part of Canada’s negotiators to ensure that our not-for-profit social programs and services survive the collision.

GATS Annex on Financial Services

This document potentially endangers the US's Social Security, Medicare and other safety net programs if they are partially privatized and compete with commercial entities. It is part of the GATS and its explained well by Patricia Arnold in her essay on GATS and Financial Regulation (Public Citizen). It contains a slightly different definition of 'services supplied as an exercise of governmental authority' than GATS Article 1:3 does, which applies in certain situations. To understand it you should also read Nicholas Skala's 2009 paper in the International Journal of Health Services and the Understanding on Commitments in Financial Services. You can also find a bit more material online if you search on the phrase "Fu Lung" or "Fu Lung Group" in the context of financial services+WTO or the Uruguay Round. It seems an effort is made to make information on FTAS difficult to find for outsiders.