Introduction

“Governments are free in principle to pursue any national policy objectives provided the relevant measures are compatible with the GATS.” –WTO, Oct. 1999

There is an urgent need for more honesty on the impacts of so called trade and investment agreements - especially those on services- on policy.

The nation has never been told, making much of what the nation is doing, for example, our called "health care debate" wrong in crucial respects, as its missing these key facts that literally change everything.

In the case of US health care reform, the fact that the GATS was used to take virtually everything that saves money off the table, more than two decades ago, for example.

We should get that fact out into the open, ASAP. so we can avoid still more traps for the unwary.

For example, all deregulation in committed sectors (like health insurance) is likely to lock in and if so, cannot be reversed-except at potentially enormous costs.

GATS changed everything that "affects trade in services" which is virtually everything.

See Public Citizen's GATS Backgrounder.

The United States, unknown to its people, now has what almost amounts to a new separate extra-national Constitution that changes everything - all "measures" meaning all laws that affect trade in "services" altering basically "everything you cannot drop on your foot". These changes block our ability to properly regulate health care and many other services dramatically, forcing a one way ever more restrictive deregulation on policy. Or at least that is its intent. 

Creates onerous obligations

GATS and other FTAs like the pending TISA create onerous obligations that people need to know about so we can figure out what to do. We could easily get trapped in a way similar to what has happened to South Africa which voted for it's National Heath Act more than a decade ago, but cannot implement it because of GATS rules.

Certainly we would not want our country to have incurred a huge debt, if in fact that is what happened. But it appears that some countries frame GATS obligations as exactly that. According to one expert, this may be a misconception. 

Additionally, few Americans would want other countries to be forced to adopt our health insurance system. But that seems to be what is happening on a large scale.

Nor do we see trading service jobs away as a good thing. But it seems, that from the start back in the 1990s, the GATS was intended to complement NAFTA, it seems, trading away some unknowable number of good jobs. Why? Its "more efficient" for people from countries that specialize in cheap labor to do them, so that we can "concentrate on the things we do best".  Comparative advantage as they define it seems to be a lose-lose for Americans.

Whether we are indeed trying to pressure other countries into privatizing or not, it seems to me that commitments made in GATS and its progeny now almost certainly make it so its much more difficult for our problems in areas like health care to be resolved than most people think now.

Need to know history

But to be honest, as there appears to be a long and sordid history of pressure we have brought to bear in the WTO against other countries in the trade arena for things which it seems likely to me most Americans would not have wanted, and so we are living very dangerously by not having all of this out in the open air.

Both parties have really done a very bad thing here by keeping these agreements out of the public eye, because they frustrate policy we desperately need, potentially forever.

Explains information blockade on Bernie Sanders

This situation also explains their current unwillingness to cover Bernie Sanders' campaign. He wont get news coverage and he would never be nominated as long as this secret remains hidden.  because 2/3 to 3/4 of his platform consists of proposed "measures" which clearly are barred by the GATS agreement, particularly.

For example, these in health care, from Nicholas Skala's 2009 paper.

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These "agreements" (which almost nobody would agree with) are blocking more and more kinds of progressive changes that are much needed, at a supranational level. (And I suspect that was likely their intent from the beginning).

Here, trade is being used as a pretext by an irresponsible elite to hijack democracy and the rule of law, for their own financial enrichment, in a way that the people and our votes could not reverse, killing people. And they are hiding this from the public, despite the fact that the GATS agreement is public.

Whether commitments were made back in the 1990s or later or whether they were made or not, should never cripple a future Administration's ability to fix longstanding problems that are literally killing people. But it appears that's exactly what they do.

GATS also force privatizations and may compel outsourcing/offshoring of increasingly precious good jobs in former quasi-public services to the lowest qualified bidding firm.

In order to ensnare health care (education, etc.) policy they seem to be trying to use foreign countries firms as accomplices in a con game to eliminate safety nets, by means of this trade pretext.

They are forcing one way privatization and potentially, various kinds of globalization. The scope of the privatization is supposed to increase until arguably all of what we consider to be public services are privatized and turned into global trade-able commodities. That is, unless they are "a service supplied in the exercise of governmental authority" which means "any service which is supplied neither on a commercial basis, nor in competition with one or more service suppliers." A very narrow exception that virtually never applies.
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(the Secretariat has said it means totally noncommercial, not simply paid for totally by the government, meaning the UK's NHS likely is not protected from GATS rules  - meaning it will gradually be subjected to a death of 1000 cuts.. "progressive liberalization" Of course that also applies to all healthcare in the US that receives a subsidy.

(In other words, its a bar which few service sectors anywhere can meet, and no others are safe, unless they are explicitly carved out).

Plus, the service would have needed to exist in a totally noncommercial state, pre 1995 and/or never have been committed as we have done. Nobody is discussing this because its damning.

Causing a lot of dishonesty, for example with "standstill"

For example, this chart shows how GATS Article 1:3 "insures" that there can not be such a thing as a "public option", that isnt pre-broken.  Additionally, a standstill clause added in 1998 basically implies that to be compliant we must list all exceptions then, and then freeze new regulation after then- See Skala,  L. Wallach (at end) and T. Tucker (item 12 in bulleted list) creating a right to have them rolled back for other countries.

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We also must attempt to eliminate or reduce in scope all of the then-existing non-conforming services (like Medicaid and other subsidized measures) GATS promotes the framing that all subsidized measures need to be replaced by  market-based measures - it seems to me it really doesnt want to allow any partially subsidized measure to exist unaffected over an extended period of time.

Other WTO members who feel they are impacted, can petition the WTO to sanction us until we "roll-back" any financial services regulation added after Feb 26, 1998, that they feel impairs their profitability, including the Affordable Care Act!
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"Not more burdensome than necessary" requirement makes the normal political process of compromise GATS-illegal.

One important thing is that if GATS does apply, the rules require everything we do be "not more burdensome than necessary" which means in essence measures (basically everything a government does at all levels, all policies rules of all kinds, everything) must be minimal. For example, they should be designed to only help those who had no possibility of buying a product to help any other way and unless a country is one of the poorest, it seems that if it made commitments in that sector like us, anything new also must be temporary - lasting only until a market based solution, preferably one involving international trade, could be found.

Too inflexible, undemocratic, could trap the country into bad policy

This is an increasingly rigid system and our own country is behind much of its rigidity so there is no hope that we would simply allow ourselves to break our own rigid rules. There is quite a history here of our forcing other countries to toe the line, particularly when it comes to the prices of drugs and public healthcare systems, which people should read up on. 

Force privatization and deregulation via "progressive liberalization"

Basically privatization and deregulation is locked in by ratchet clauses in trade agreements.

This WTO involvement makes it impossible for new (not pre-existing) mixed healthcare systems to stably work for poor people or others in any way because every two years the WTO meets to pressure countries to privatize more and more, a process called progressive liberalization that is locked in permanently by a ratchet, every privatization we enact, every deregulation is supposed to be irreversible.

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Additionally if a country allows any expansion of scope for public systems of statutory social security such that they compete with commercial products they lose the GATS exemption for that social security system forcing their conversion into just another commercial investment with huge fees that eat up any appreciation.

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In short, our country needs to become more aware of these potential gotchas we have created for ourselves so we are not walking into our own trap.

Due to how GATS punitively tries to lock in every deregulatory change, with sanctions which are potentially triggered if it is reversed, not only can we not win, while it is there (we have to get the worst deal because the US wants other countries to follow the same rules, so we have to.) The effect of this seems to likely be that every entry of foreign firms into our markets becomes a trigger for potential losses in the billions in an area like health care, a potential bear trap for our policy as well as a black hole for tax money and additional human lives lost.

Legislators need to know about this.

We have really screwed our country by doing this and lying about it to our people for so long and this creates a situation that only radical honesty has any chance of fixing. Its time to put the partisan politics aside and have a national dialogue on what has been done (to trap ourselves) and what needs to be done to fix it.

This really should be a watershed moment for our country to do some serious self examination or we are in a very bad place because of what these deals - which we were instrumental in creating, do (The need is in almost every area is to do the exact opposite), and attempt to lock in irreversibly.

They could be the biggest and most costly mistake the country has ever made.

Facts being censored online, fake news promoted

By the way, people should be aware that censorship of these issues is occurring on social media. Which should be illegal because legislators need to know about them, so they don't waste endless amounts of time working on the wrong kinds of legislation, thats already guaranteed not to work.

Urgent need for carve-outs, before its too late.

There is an urgent need for carve outs from these FTAs, soon.

Or the ability we may still have to gain our policy freedom may be gone by the 2020 elections unless there is a moratorium on new FTAs until then. 

These agreements are intended to frustrate democracy.

Please read more in the links below and the tags below center.

Site Highlights and requests to readers.

Here are some things people can do to help us on healthcare. become aware of potential hidden traps.

Read the beginning of the Annex on Financial Services

Thats an example of one possible hidden trap (for Social Security and Medicare?) . There are many others. Another big barrier to progress is the Understanding on Commitments in Financial Services, starting with its standstill clause and it's requirements that Members take every opportunity to eliminate what it calls "monopoly services", or reduce them in scope

The changes GATS makes are supposed to be forever, but there is supposed to be a way out, its called the Article XXI procedure

The longer we wait, the more difficult and costly extricating ourselves from them is going to become.

If a number of things happen which could happen any time, silently, the cost could become so high we wil be stuck with broken health care forever because the cost to leave could simply become too high (and our economy might be falling apart because of the other effects of these FTAs).

Read this critical report on its potential effects on Canadian health care.

GATS and other FTAs like TRIPS agreement both make virtually everything that can be done to save money FTA-illegal, and potentially endanger jobs and virtually everything else people rely on in various ways. Ways people don't expect. They are a war on the very idea of a healthy middle class.

In my humble opinion, 'agreements' like GATS and TISA are a means of stealing the future, by stealth.

They pull up the ladders out of poverty. Everything claimed about them is dishonest. Don't let them steal the world's future and democracy.

Lets fill in the blanks and lets make changes to re-assert democracy, and close this loophole, as its so large its enabling a theft of the whole planet.

A bright future for everybody could be had due to knowledge and technology that should be everybodys.

The future is being stolen by the powerful and unworthy.

Facts like the theft of the insulin patent - keeping generic insulin off the market for nearly 100 years - when it had been given to humanity for all, should be a wake up call. 

A huge number of people are dying because of the capture of our entire regulatory system. How more obvious could this possibly be?

It has to be changed so that people come above profits, everywhere. Now.