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Video: GATS- What is it?

Concise, very fast video cram course on GATS by an expert in it. Don't blink or you might miss something important.

The General Agreement On Trade In Services: Implications For Health Policymakers (Health Affairs)

The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), created under the auspices of the World Trade Organization, aims to regulate measures affecting international trade in services—including health services such as health insurance, hospital services, telemedicine, and acquisition of medical treatment abroad. The agreement has been the subject of great controversy, for it may affect the freedom with which countries can change the shape of their domestic health care systems. We explain the rationale behind the agreement and discuss its scope. We also address the major controversies surrounding the GATS and their implications for the U.S. health care system

GATS Backgrounder from Public Citizen (2005)

“Governments are free in principle to pursue any national policy objectives provided the relevant measures are compatible with the GATS.” –WTO, Oct. 1999 “GATS provides guarantees over a much wider field of regulation and law than the GATT; the right of establishment and the obligation to treat foreign services suppliers fairly and objectively in all relevant areas of domestic regulation extend the reach of the Agreement into areas never before recognized as trade policy.” Good intro to/overview of GATS-

Maine CTPC Health Care Subcommittee Draft Report on GATS barriers to state health care reforms

This report was prepared for the state of Maine by trade experts from Georgetown University. It shows some of the hidden traps faced by states that attempt to make it possible for the working poor to afford health insurance. The Health Care Subcommittee of the Maine Citizens Trade Policy Commission asked the Forum on Democracy & Trade to look at Maine’s health insurance programs in relation to U.S. commitments under international trade agreements, and specifically to identify potential conflicts or issues regarding Maine’s Dirigo Health Program with provisions of the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Here we focus specifically on Dirigo and GATS in order to enable the Maine CTPC to: Understand potential trade conflicts serious enough to bring to the attention of U.S. trade negotiators and the Congress Raise questions about the meaning of vague GATS provisions on coverage and trade rules that could improve the quality of state-federal consultation on trade policy Identify potential safeguards for Dirigo and similar state-level health programs.

WTO - legal texts - Understanding on Commitments in Financial Services

"As of 2009, the 33 countries whose current schedules reference the Understanding include: Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Slovak Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States, as well as the European Communities members as of 1994 (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.) The only developing nations that utilized the Understanding were Aruba, Netherland Antilles, Nigeria, Sri Lanka (for banking not insurance), and Turkey. Additionally, eight countries (Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, and Slovenia) were in the process of revising their commitments to match the EC schedule" (from the commentary by Jane Kelsey on TISA Financial Services text) -- This document regulates government regulation of financial services like banking and insurance, including health insurance, greatly limiting what we can do. In particular it is thought to freeze new financial services regulations after its signing date, unless they were enumerated then. In the case of the US that date is February 26, 1998. If challenged in a WTO dispute proceeding a country that has violated a "standstill" may have to roll back its regulatory state to the level of regulation in effect on that date. A related concept, "ratchet" is also said to apply in WTO law - it denotes a one way capture of all deregulation in a committed sector making it a violation to re-regulate. See the definitions of "standstill", "rollback" and "ratchet" in trade parlance.

Interpretation of Article I, Section 3 (b) and (c) of GATS - PublicServicesScope

This is another article discussing the important "governmental authority exception" which defines the scope of GATS jurisdiction. (and what can be seen as a public service under GATS, the definition is very narrow- everything else is subject to all sorts of rules which bar government subsidization except if its 'minimally trade restrictive') - by Markus Krajewski

Model clauses for the exclusion of public services from trade and investment agreements ( EPSU & Markus Krajewski)

This paper discusses how trade agreements could be modified in the EU to protect their existing public services from trade and investment agreements which are designed to tear them apart and privatize public services against the people's will, behind their backs. _______ Unfortunately the EU examples given are much less applicable to the US because we are trying to do something which we ourselves devoted a great deal of energy into preventing by creating the WTO, other economic governance organizations and making all these conditions binding on ourselves especially, which seem generally to only allow the poorest (LDC) countries to set up new public services and monopolies. Also look up "LDC Services Waiver" for a related issue involving the jobs.

Ellen Gould discusses GATS on Talking Stick TV.

Video - Ellen Gould is a trade expert whose insight here is quite accurate. See what she tells us here about domestic regulations, technical standrds, licensing, medical standards, everything. Lots of info on what they want to do with healthcare. The WTO could sanction us if we wanted our doctors to meet higher standards than those in the developing countries. (around 25:00) The WTO also wants us to allow for profit offshoring of poor patients. Which would be subject to the same problems as the for profit system does now, except likely worse, with less accountability.

GATS and Financial Services Deregulation by Patricia Arnold

Medicare, Social Security and other governmentally subsidized financial services are put in grave danger by the GATS - This paper by a noted professor in accounting who has written a great deal of highly readable material on the WTO and its interaction with financial regulation is a short and concise intro to many of the major issues, particularly the threats GATS poses to Social Security and Medicare if those areas are allowed to compete with commercial banks or insurers. Caution is needed because millions could see huge changes in their only retirement benefits just as they were needed the most if Social Security and/or Medicare lose their protection from GATS rules, which is likely if current proposals are implemented,- see the Annex on Financial Services.

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.

Putting Health First - Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Canadian Health Care Reform, Trade Treaties and Foreign Policy - this essay describes the traps in the GATS agreement for Canadian health care, and it also would totally apply to a hypothetical US healthcare plan if it had prexisted the creation of the WTO. it also discusses 'carve outs' and why they are needed by Canada to protect their Medicare (public health care) from Trade Agreements put forward by countries like the US that try to destroy, and privatize them. Note: the situation of the Canadian system is different than the UK's as Canadian Healthcare is exempt from GATS, and the UK's public option the NHS like US's optional short term public experiments like the ACA are subject to the GATS privatization agreements progressive liberalization ratchet, etc. requirements. Unfortunately.

Public Citizen: Medicare and Social Security - SOS: Save our Services from the WTO

Bottom Line: If the Bush administration succeeds in even partially privatizing Social Security, under the WTO GATS agreement foreign corporations could end up with treaty rights to raid our tax dollars for profit and Americans could face shredded retirement and Medicare safety nets. For now, Social Security is probably safe from the GATS because the agreement exempts services that are exclusively a government monopoly and are not also offered on a commercial basis. But if Social Security is even partially privatized — as the Bush administration is advocating — and folks begin to invest some of their federal retirement funds in the stock market, then GATS would require some things that the privatizers don’t want to talk about. The agreements would: * permit foreign and offshore firms to compete for private Social Security accounts, thus preventing the most stringent regulation of these accounts and increasing the risks to retirees; * make it harder to fix Social Security after the privatization experiment predictably fails, because GATS requires that nations first compensate all of their trading partners for lost future economic opportunity if they “take back” the service from the private sector and make it public again. * Failure to compensate would result in punitive trade sanctions, which is why some say GATS makes privatization a one-way street.

Public Citizen: Comments on International Services Agreement ("TISA")

TISA is the US and Australia's proposed "mext generation" trade agreement to promote global outsourcing and offshoring of services. Its "everything in by default" approach makes it much more likely to be dangerous and its effects unpredictable. It would block Medicare for All and limit public services to only those which met very narrow exceptions or were essential to national security. It would create a lot of dishonesty in government because what politician would honestly say that a trade agreement tied their hands from delivering positive change, only allowing corporations to take more and more?

Public Citizen: Health Care Memo

"...However, many of today’s international trade agreements establish binding obligations constraining federal, state and local government policy and actions in numerous service sectors, including health services. These rules are not limited to trade in services across borders, but also constrain government regulation of foreign service sector firms operating within the United States. As a result, today’s “trade” pacts are delving deeply into domestic regulatory issues that have little or nothing to do with the traditional concept of trade between nations".

Public Citizen: Threats to Health Care Policy

"The WTO’s GATS delves into “areas never before recognized as trade policy"... "The GATS represents a 180-degree turn from the U.S. approach to health care policy − away from regulating industries for the benefit of the consumer, and towards regulating governments for the benefit of multinational firms and industries".

Lori Wallach discusses 'standstill' in this short video on Democracy Now

Note: THIS ALSO APPLIES TO TODAY'S US HEALTH INSURANCE, because it is a financial service, and IMPORTANT- people will always try to confuse you saying (GATS or) TISA does not apply to "public services" HA! Let me clue you in, that's an old GATS trick. THAT TERM DOES NOT APPLY TO ANY US PUBLIC SERVICE I CAN THINK OF, and the only UNDER ANY GATS DEFINITION, SO NOT EXEMPT. It doesn't even apply to the UK's NHS, although their government claims it does. It should apply to Canada. Because they don't sell any health insurance that competes with their Medicare, and it also predated the WTO's creation. Just them. See our info on "government authority exclusion" - Sorry! - The Trade in Services Agreement extends the WTO GATS agreement and does so in a way that attempts to legitimize it retrospectively, it seems. IMPORTANT!- It even uses the (1990s) dates from the GATS agreement. Could it really act as a standstill effective in the 1990s exposing later attempts at regulation to challenge and roll back? It seems as if that is what is happening. (speculation on my part) Why?