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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.

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-

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.

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 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)

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".

Global Trade and Public Health

"Global trade and international trade agreements have transformed the capacity of governments to monitor and to protect public health, to regulate occupational and environmental health conditions and food products, and to ensure affordable access to medications". (This basically means they have stolen the right to regulate, or are in the process of stealing it.)

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

Causes of the Debt Crisis - Global Issues

"Third world debt has long been recognized as a major obstacle to human development. Many other problems have arisen because of the enormous debt that third world countries owe to rich countries. Debt has impeded sustainable human development, security and political or economic stability. How has this happened?" (Note: it seems this odious and illegitimate "Third World Debt" is cited as one of the reasons for the GATS (???) by the UN in document A/RES/44/232 )

Multinational Corporations and Health Care in the United States and Latin America: Strategies, Actions, and Effects

"In this article we analyze the corporate dominance of health care in the United States and the dynamics that have motivated the international expansion of multinational health care corporations, especially to Latin America. We identify the strategies, actions, and effects of multinational corporations in health care delivery and public health policies. Our methods have included systematic bibliographical research and in-depth interviews in the United States, Mexico, and Brazil. Influenced by public policy makers in the United States, such organizations as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization have advocated policies that encourage reduction and privatization of health care and public health services previously provided in the public sector."

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

This article by Markus Krajewski discusses GATS' 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 privatize them and bar government subsidization except if its 'minimally trade restrictive') - by Markus Krajewski

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".

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.

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?

GATS and Women

"GATS is likely to have a disproportionately negative impact on women"