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"The Future is Public: Towards Democratic Ownership of Public Services" (book)

Cities are fighting back against privatization globally, by remunicipalization (or remunicipalisation) bringing public services back under local control, in defiance of trade agreements that attempt to privatize them. This is a free resource on this important subject. This is hard to find info about in the US because it counters the idea that privatization/outsourcing, etc. is some irreversible force of nature.

"Next Generation" Trade and Investment Agreements: Upcoming Challenges for Public Services

This is an excellent recent presentation by a EU public services group about the attacks on public services in the EU by the trade agreements of countries like the US ('next generation' trade deals refers to US style negative list agreements which are particularly aggressive in privatizing and capturing public services, permanently (example, the US capture of healthcare around the globe by transnational corporations) ending public ownership and voter control over irreplaceable services and resources.. It shows the strategies which this global scheme, uses. Very much worth reading.

Some analyses of domestic regulation disciplines – compilation for MC11 (2017)

This is a recent analysis of proposed (by a number of countries) Disciplines on Domestic Regulation from Sanya Reid Smith of TWN, an NGO that has been involved in WTO matters for a long time. It was made before the recent WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires. You can see that its the WTO which is disciplining the countries domestic regulations. ------------------------------------------ Introduction Domestic regulation disciplines on services are being negotiated in a number of trade agreements including at the World Trade Organization (WTO), in the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) 1 and in other free trade agreements (FTAs) such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) 2 and those being negotiated by the European Union (EU) 3 . It seems that domestic regulation disciplines (DRD) will also be negotiated at the Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11) from 10-13 December 2017 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. 4 The European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland etc (‘EU et al’) released their DRD proposed text on 1 December 2017. 5 "These proposed DRD would restrict laws and regulations re services licensing etc, even non-discriminatory laws which apply to domestic and foreign companies equally. Yet, as United Nations Conference on Trade And Development (UNCTAD) staff note, services regulation is important for a number of reasons including: protecting consumers, ensuring universal access to essential services cultural diversity, quality, safety, correcting market failures (eg: information asymmetry where the service provider has more information than the consumer, natural monopolies, negative externalities (eg environmental degradation from transport) where those not directly involved suffer costs). 6 After highlighting that many regulatory frameworks are still at an emerging stage in developing countries the UNCTAD staff conclude that ‘it is key for developing countries that international rules for services trade preserve the right to regulate (RtR) and grant the necessary policy space to experiment in the search for those policies that best suit individual countries’ specific, developmental needs.’ Given this, the UNCTAD staff note that ‘one would expect developing countries to take a cautious, rather than an offensive approach towards the development of these disciplines, with their main goal to preserve the RtR.’ 7 This compilation includes excerpts from existing analyses of the same DRD proposed in the WTO or in TISA." ----------------------------------- Compiled by Sanya Reid Smith, Third World Network

Mind the GATS! (Robert Newman, The Guardian, 2000)

"Leaked WTO documents show them currently working out a list of what will be acceptable as a "legitimate" government objective for any regulation of services under GATS. That of "safeguarding the public interest" has already been rejected. If GATS goes ahead, warns economist Susan George, "then Europe can kiss goodbye its public health services". But even though that's just the start of the disaster, there has been no parliamentary debate or news coverage about GATS. (It's way too important for that.) The British government's official line is that there's nothing to worry about anyway. The DTI claims GATS won't apply to the NHS or education here because "non-commercial services" are exempt from the fiat . But GATS says that if you've got just one tiny part of a public service that's even an iddy-biddy-bit commercial then THE WHOLE THING IS UP FOR GRABS."

GATS and Government Services

"There are two major issues raised in the literature about GATS and its application to publicly funded service providers such as libraries. The first issue is the exemption of some services from all parts of the GATS agreement and the second issue pertains to the GATS articles that apply to services that are not exempt. To begin with, not all services are or will be negotiated for inclusion to the GATS. An exception was made for services which fall into the general exemption of "government authority". These services are not required to be liberalized to trade in any way nor is any part of the air transport and traffic sectors (WTO, GATS 2). The exception of "services provided to the public in the exercise of governmental authority" is contentious because its meaning has not been clearly defined in GATS. In Article I(3) of the agreement there are two tests applied to the definition of a government provided service: first, it must not be offered on a commercial basis and second, it must not be provided in competition with other service providers (Shrybman, iv). If a service offered by the government fails these tests, then the government must withdraw from providing the service or fund all other providers equally. The WTO states that this position is straightforward and covers "social security schemes and any other public service, such as health or education, that is provided at non-market conditions" (WTO, The General). However, as Hunt points out, these two tests actually make it difficult to determine what would qualify as a government service under GATS when those clauses are closely considered (32). Services such as health care and education have private for-profit suppliers, which 'in competition' with publicly funded and supplied services. Despite the assurances of the WTO, it would seem that these clauses would effectively exclude those services from the list of services offered in exercise of government authority."

The Effects of International Trade Agreements on Canadian Health Measures: Options for Canada with a View to the Upcoming Trade Negotiations (2002)

Richard Ouellet, Laval University (October 2002) -- "It will be noted that while Canada has avoided the potential effects that the international economic agreements could have on health care, it has done so by taking advantage of the structure of agreements based on quite different approaches. • If the Canadian government wishes to continue exempting our public health systems from the effects of these agreements, it will have to acknowledge that doing so by simultaneously using approaches as different as those of the GATS and the NAFTA is not without risks. What is needed is an integrated approach that reflects trade concerns while respecting the health care priorities of governments."

No Watertight Compartments: Trade Agreements, International Health Care Reform, and the Legal Politics of Public Sector Exemptions

Debates over the legal interpretation of trade treaty (WTO and NAFTA) exemption clauses for public services display a common pattern. Critics of trade agreements argue that these clauses are likely to be narrowly interpreted, providing scant protection from international trade rules to public health care. Defenders usually argue that they will be given a reasonably expansive definition and that trade obligations (at least the more onerous WTO national treatment obligations) will generally not apply to public health care services. This paper argues that although the optimism of trade agreement defenders may be well-founded when viewed from a static perspective, the protection afforded by exemption clauses shrinks with the expansion of market elements in health care. Hence, the major implication of such “carve-outs” for health policy makers will not be the liberty to engage in “business as usual”, but rather the need to assess the trade-related risks associated with market-based reform in the future. This paper analyses the WTO and NAFTA provisions limiting the application of these trade agreements to the health care sector in terms of the various risk scenarios posed by different models of health care reform.

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.

The GATS and Canadian Postal Services

The 60-page study, " The GATS and Canadian Postal Services," examines the implications of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the current negotiations to expand it for Canada Post and Canadian postal services. US-based multinational courier companies are using the GATS negotiations to try to force Canada Post out of parcel delivery and other competitive services. "Restricting Canada Post to core letter-mail services would doom the Canadian public postal system to gradual erosion and decline," said Sinclair Foreign multinationals are seeking GATS-enforceable rights to Canada Post's advantages without being encumbered by its public service obligations, according to the study. The report's key findings include: The GATS conflicts with existing multilateral rules that ensure the delivery of international mail--the Universal Postal Union rules. The GATS prohibits minimum service requirements in Canada's rural areas and the north. By covering courier services under the GATS, negotiators have exposed Canada Post to challenges under the GATS anti-monopoly rules. A quirk of the United Nations system for classifying services may be all that protects Canada from an even more devastating national treatment challenge. This vital protection however, is at risk in ongoing discussions in Geneva to reclassify postal and courier services. The study urges that Canada's trade policy objectives and negotiating strategy be brought into line with the clear Parliamentary mandate given to Canada Post. The report suggests immediate steps that Canada should take to protect public postal services under the GATS. "But the many threats posed by the GATS to the Canadian public postal system demonstrate that it is a deeply flawed agreement hostile to public services and to regulation in the public interest," Sinclair concludes.

We Own It: UK

"Privatisation has failed - it’s a fringe, extreme ideology. A majority of us believe public services should work for people not profit."

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.

TISA - backdoor services liberalisation on a global level!

The Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) currently under negotiation on the side-line of the World Trade Organization (WTO) poses significant deregulatory threats for the majority of services sectors. International trade in services is dealt with by the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and its annexes. Each WTO country so far autonomously decides which sectors are to be opened up to cross-border competition. Services sectors liberalisation is carried out once governments gave their explicit agreement to do so (positive lists). TISA intends to reverse this logic and implement a negative listing of liberalisation commitments. Only explicitly targeted sectors in the agreement would not be subject to further liberalisation. This poses significant risks of liberalising all services sectors of the economy unless explicitly exempted from the agreement. TISA would contain “Standstill” and “Ratchet” clauses. Standstill clauses effectively freeze the degrees of regulation in particular sectors and countries are no longer free to implement more strident regulatory provisions. A recently leaked text showed that the financial services industry, through TISA, intends to freeze international financial regulatory efforts by setting a minimum regulatory floor which could not be subsequently superseded by any government wishing so. Ratchet clauses effectively impede government to reverse achieved liberalisation floors. Once a sector is liberalised, there cannot be a turning back. These clauses mean that governments will no longer be able to challenge decisions and choices made by previous governments. The combination of the ratchet and standstill clauses renders the reversal of liberalisation levels impossible. Additionally, TISA could prescribe necessity tests for regulatory measures. Governments would have to prove the necessity of a regulatory instrument before implementing it. For example, in a discussion of universal coverage, a Government would have to prove the necessity of re-regulating already privatised services such as postal services.

The GATS’ Article I, paragraph 3.... (and libraries)

What is Article 1:3? Article 1, Paragraph 3 of the GATS defines the scope of the agreement as follows: (b) “services” includes any service in any sector except services supplied in the exercise of governmental authority; (c) “a service supplied in the exercise of governmental authority” means any service which is supplied neither on a commercial basis, nor in competition with one or more service suppliers. What it really means...Clause (c) above constitutes the potential danger to libraries and the public sector. It appears to mean that “if a service is provided on a non-commercial basis but in competition with other suppliers or on a commercial basis but without competition, it is not a service supplied in exercise of governmental authority.” (1) (and so has to be privatized - it canot be allowed to exist as is, under GATS rules)

How the World Trade Organization’s new “services” negotiations threaten democracy

Scott Sinclair: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The GATS is extraordinarily broad, dealing with every service imaginable. It applies to measures of all governments, whether federal, First Nation, provincial, state, regional or municipal. It employs both “top-down” and “bottom-up” approaches to covering measures and sectors. The agreement is not confined to cross-border trade, but intrudes into many domestic policy areas including environment, culture, natural resources, health care, education and social services.

How ‘free trade’ & investment treaties attack public services & why we have to fight them

by Prof. Jane Kelsey 1980s neoliberal greed took over the world • Structural adjustment – SAPs - at home • Global rules to push it further and faster, then lock it in New version of colonisation affected all countries, North and SouthTNCs targetted services as new source of mega-profits For public sector workers this means ongoing ... Job losses Insecure employment Deunionisation and labour market ‘flexibility’ Loss of protections & entitlements Added costs, but lower incomes Migration for remittances

Public Services and the GATS - International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development

Rashad Cassim & Ian Steuart, School of Economic and Business Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg - (3rd Draft) "The strength of a society depends unequivocally upon a foundation that ensures the provision of a range of quality public services to all who need them, regardless of their ability to pay for them. It is perhaps perplexing then that the provision of public services, even those thought of as essential or basic services, is increasingly in the hands of private companies, leading inexorably to their commercialisation, threatening their reach to those that need them most, and potentially eroding the sustainability of their provision from both a social and environmental perspective. This subchapter aims to achieve the following: to provide an overview of the role and relevance of public services, and to examine the link between the provision of public services and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS); the primary vehicle of the liberalisation of services within a multilateral, rules-based system of international trade and therefore an area of specific concern. Consequently, with respect to the first aim, this subchapter will examine the evolution of “public services” and why it remains important to retain an element of government intervention in their provision. With respect to the second, the chapter will focus on the scope of the GATS and the tensions inherent in the interpretation of Article 1:3 of the GATS, which deals with the “public services” carve-out from the agreement. This subchapter is divided into 5 sections. After this Introduction, Section 2 will examine what is meant by “public services”, including the usefulness of the more restrictive conception of “essential” or “basic” services. Section 3 focuses on the role of public services in addressing sustainable development concerns, particularly the relationship between public services and their privatisation. Section 4 is devoted to the relationship between public services and the GATS. Much has been written on public services and the liberalisation of trade and this section aims at synthesis of arguments on both sides of the divide, which have become increasingly more vocal and passionate as the services negotiations in the WTO proceed as part of the Doha Development Round. Section 5 concludes."

The politics of the private finance initiative and the new NHS

"This is the last of four articles on Britain's public-private partnership in health care We began this series by arguing that the private finance initiative, far from being a new source of funding for NHS infrastructure, is a financing mechanism that greatly increases the cost to the taxpayer of NHS capital development. The second paper showed that the justification for the higher costs of the private finance initiative—the transfer of risk to the private sector—was not borne out by the evidence. The third paper showed the impact of these higher costs at local level on the revenue budgets of NHS trusts and health authorities, is to distort planning decisions and to reduce planned staffing and service levels."

GATS and Public Service Systems

This is a must-read article as its by far the most concise and understandable explanation of the "governmental authority exception" an all important "two-pronged test" or definition, that defines the scope of what is allowed to be a public service and what is not, in the GATS agreement. In other words, what is subject to privatization rules, and what isn't. This definition is also borrowed or imported, in the computer programming sense, "as is" into hundreds of other trade agreements all around the globe. So this essay is extremely useful in understanding which healthcare or higher education proposals could work (and which ones would be subjected to a death of a thousand cuts, and couldn't) for example. The essay was originally written and published by the government of British Columbia province in Canada.

Trading Health Care Away? GATS, Public Services and Privatisation

"But talks have since begun to change one of the 28 agreements overseen by the WTO -- the General Agreement on Trade in Services or GATS. The US, EU, Japan and Canada are trying to revise GATS so that it could be used to overturn almost any legislation governing services from national to local level. And non-government organisations (NGOs) and trade unions are demanding that services in the public interest be clearly exempt from GATS. It details how public services may not in fact be excluded from GATS and explores the implications for public health care."