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Who traded who what in the GATS?

Its clear to me that neither Americans nor Britons have even the foggiest idea of what the GATS is or even that it exists. But it does and its one of the main reasons why everything is so broken.

Large scale privatizations of once-public (services) are the first steps in a global scheme to outsource and/or offshore them internationally at low wages.

turning many professions into precarious low paid labor- The inclusion in the WTO of billions of jobs in the category of potentially "tradable" services, is turning them into bargaining chips in a vast international trade - while lowering quality and professionalism to least common denominator levels. Turning people and their lives, hopes and dreams, into "inputs" - and "markets" basically commodities.

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freeze international financial regulatory efforts by setting a minimum regulatory floor which could not be subsequently superseded by any government wishing so.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.

GATS, Migration, and Labor Standards

(from the International Labor Organization - ILO ) Discussion about the hidden global push to use guest worker programs to impoverish the middle class and lift the wealthy in the poorest nations out of "poverty"

Jobs Abroad Support ‘Model’ State in India

By JASON DePARLE TRIVANDRUM, India — "This verdant swath of southern Indian coastline is a famously good place to be poor. People in the state of Kerala live nearly as long as Americans do, on a sliver of the income. They read at nearly the same rates. With leftist governments here in the state capital spending heavily on health and schools, a generation of scholars has celebrated the “Kerala model” as a humane alternative to market-driven development, a vision of social equality in an unequal capitalist world. .. the benevolent path to development, a retort to globalization — makes the travails of its 1.8 million globalizing migrants especially resonant. The debate about Kerala is a debate about future strategies across the impoverished world".

Movement of Natural Persons (Mode-4) Under GATS: Advantage Developing Countries

(There are many sides to this story, here is another one of them! GATS set up what amounts to a competition between everybody in the world for a shrinking pool of jobs in order to lower wages and working conditions for everybody) by Dipankar Dey "The actual potential of Mode-4 could not be exploited for the benefit of developing countries that enjoy comparative advantage in this mode over others. The developed countries have offered almost nothing in the Mode-4 negotiation despite liberalizing labor mobility via other mechanisms. So far, the developing country policy makers have failed to exploit the comparative advantage they claim to enjoy in Mode-4. They should be blamed either for their inability to assess the true potential of this mode of service or for their failure to chalk out an effective strategy during negotiation. The Southern negotiators should prepare themselves with appropriate strategy and tactics to enable them to put pressure on their Northern counterparts, for binding the latter's commitments on liberal market access, better working condition and protection of human rights for the immigrant workers."

The State of Play in GATS Negotiations: Are Developing Countries Benefiting?

I am including articles like this so that we out-of-the-loop Americans can see other points of view. I disagree with the premise that trade agreements trading away rapidly vanishing good jobs forever is somehow good. I don't think it helps the poor in any conceivable way. Highly skilled workers, as they are alleged to be - in order to get their nonimmigrant work visas, should be paid a decent wage, not be working almost for free just for a reference, while body shop firms pocket most of their earnings, paying them in many cases less than US minimum wage (when you divide the number of hours they actually work by their wages). But thats what GATS Mode Four attempts to do, and make it irreversible. The job losses to the indigenous workers are called "efficiency gains". These programs will heavily impact the core middle class professions, turning them into precarious labor. It will be quite literally NAFTA for the rest of the jobs. That's been GATS' goal from the beginning.

Migration, Precarization and the Democratic Deficit in Global Governance

Migrants make up a disproportionate part of the social category whose experience in the world of work is marked by “precarity” in terms of informal labour, wage squeeze, temporariness, uncer- tainty and pernicious risk. They belong to the most disadvantaged among a globally growing workforce of casual labour which has come to be called the “precariat”. This, in spite of vast differences in local situations, is currently one of the greatest social and political challenges: to governments, to multilateral organizations, to trade unions and to broader social justice and human rights movements across the world. It is a predicament of the present that takes us well beyond the conventional understanding of North and South, West and East. “Precarity” has currently gained importance in critical labour and citizenship studies in general, and in studies on migration, in particular. Its coining is ascribed to Bourdieu (1963). It epitomizes the nexus of precarious labour and truncated citizenship (e.g. Vosko, 2009; Anderson, 2010; Goldring. 2011).Yet the meaning that precarity conveys in a range of contemporary critical studies is not “social exclusion”, seen as due to redeemable institutional shortcomings, but a “constitutive ele- ment of the new global disorder, to which it is very functional”. (Ricceri, 2011: 68). As such it represents an institutionally embedded hegemonic norm embodying market driven imperatives of “flexibility”, “availability”, “multilocality” and compressed “mobility” across time and space, with “the migrant” as its quintessential incarnation (Tsianos, 2007: 192). But “precarity” – together with its offshoot, the “precariat” – is, equally, adopted as a self-ascribed emblem by contemporary social movements questioning the premises of this very norm. Talking the talk of “precarity” has become regular parlance in political and scientific debates on and through labour and social justice movements concerned with the rights of migrants. There are indications that a global movement is afoot, speaking with or on behalf of millions of migrant “precarians”. This is part of the wider alter-globalization movement, which is developing in tandem with and at the same time contesting neoliberal globalization by emphasizing instead “human rights” and the participatory role of civil society in a democratized global governance of migration (Liki c-Brbori c and Schierup, 2012, [2010]).

UNCTAD's inputs to the UN's Secretary-General report on the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration

(Note: they make arguments in the following text that I think are likely fallacious, basically the claims that the so called multilateral trading system is preferable to its absence as far as services go. ) "Trade and services elements of a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration Trade and the trading system address root causes of mobility of people as they contribute to poverty reduction(not really true at all, unless you mean making the rich richer), regional stability and security and thus to the promotion of migration as a choice.(if people want to advance they have traditionally moved, these changes basically change where the money of overseas workers ends up, reducing their pay, inserting new middlemen, funneling it to large firms brokering their temporary labor) Along with cooperative arrangements, they can also provide the tools to better migration governance, (corporate capture of migration might be a better term) promoting the recognition of qualifications and with the potential to support, for example, the portability of earned benefits. This twofold linkage of trade and migration can be enabled by international trade related policies that can enhance the effects on economic growth thus being of relevance to a holistic approach to address the drivers of migration. Services trade through the temporary movement of natural persons, or mode 4 of supplying services- supply of a service by a service supplier of one Member, through presence of natural persons of a Member in the territory of any other Member -, relates even closely to regional and international migration as a sub-set concerning temporary migration. It is particularly important in professional and business services, as well in services related to agriculture, manufacturing and mining. In particular, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) article VI.4 envisages the establishment of disciplines, based on objective and transparent criteria, to ensure that measures relating to qualification requirements and procedures, technical standards and licensing requirements do not constitute unnecessary barriers to trade in services, including temporary mobility of persons."

When do human rights violate corporate rights? Why, in the GATS of course.

"How Close Will GATS Get to Human Rights? Similarly to the UN considering gross human rights violations a threat to peace, the WTO should consider certain human rights violations an impediment to free trade. Mutually agreed benefits of trade liberalization may be offset when a human rights infringement nullifies and impairs the multilaterally agreed level of tariff concessions or the negotiated volume of market access commitments in services. The liberalization of services trade through mode 4, whereby the service supplier moves abroad to deliver a service, relies on the free movement of natural persons. This mode of service delivery renders the GATS the WTO covered agreement with the closest affinity to the individual as a subject of international law and therefore, to human rights. Restricting the human rights of foreign service suppliers therefore could have the effect of nullifying and impairing the economic value and legal predictability of the GATS commitments. The WTO Agreements lack the legal basis for prosecuting human rights violations. While WTO Members are bound to respect jus cogens human rights, the non-jus cogens human rights originating in customary international law usually do not raise trade issues relevant enough to question the consistency with a provision of the WTO Agreements. It is suggested that the non-violation nullification and impairment complaints may be used to consider the economic damage which occurs when human rights infringements impair upon GATS commitments, specifically in those cases where the WTO Members receiving services condition their mode 4 commitments to the respect for core labour standards. If the human right amounts to jus cogens or emanates from a human rights treaty to which both parties to a WTO dispute are Members, the human right itself forms the ground of a WTO violation complaint. In all other cases, it is not the human rights violation itself, but its effect that is the economic damage on the sending country's economy, which nullifies and impairs a trade benefit." Keywords: Human Rights, Labour Mobility, GATS, Annex on Movement of Natural Persons Supplying Services under the Agreement, International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, Schedule of Specific Commitments, non-violation nullification and impairment

Offshoring companies are gaming the system to do an end run around US wage and hour laws, costing workers their jobs.

This is a good article. I thought that the H-1B visa is for grads of US colleges (foreign students) and that the L-1B visas are for foreign firms that bring in their own workers for typically around six years, at much lower wages. The L-1B workers have advanced degrees but are sometimes paid less than almost any other similarly skilled workers in the US. Its an especially exploitative situation for the foreign IT firms' workers. Who, if they are here, frankly should be able to earn what they are worth, and apply for citizenship after a few years. They shouldnt be exploited for cheap labor. But frankly, they are and its driving a huge amount of dishonesty in Washington. I would not be surprised if I found out healthcare was in part being held hostage, to manufacture a fake "crisis" as a means to get ultra cheap labor.

AFSC's "Trade Matters" back issues (archive.org)

This is from the American Friends Service Committee, its a periodical they published up until a few years ago that I think did a very good job of framing some of the issues that make trade in services deals important to know about, controversial and difficult to discuss. (Archived so need to click one extra time to select a date)

Informal Brief: The WTO Services Negotiations and Migrant Workers (AFSC)

As the World Trade Organization (WTO) gears up for the next ministerial meeting to be held December 2005 in Hong Kong, some developing country governments are pushing for an expansion of the types of labor currently covered under the services agreement. Under the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS), services are categorized into four “modes”. These include: Mode 1 ­ Providing services abroad Mode 2 ­ Consumption of services abroad Mode 3 ­ Commercial Presence ­ Subsidiary branches including service providers such as a banks, hospitals, or construction ­firms that are owned by a foreign company Mode 4 – Temporary movement of natural persons (workers) acro ss boarders to provide services Mode 4 and temporary workers Sectors currently covered under GATS Mode 4 commitments focus on highly skilled jobs, such as doctors, nurses, company executives—sectors favored by current visa systems. Also favored by current commitments are categories of special importance to Mode 3, commercial presence, such as intra­company transferees. Some developing country governments want to expand services covered under Mode 4 to include medium and low ­skilled workers, such as domestic help or construction, thus covering sectors in which they hold a competitive advantage.

International Regulatory Initiatives in Services: Background Note by the Secretariat - WTO Document S/C/W/97

The main goal of the GATS is trading services, roughly 80% of a modern economy and including most jobs. This is an area that most people don't associate with trade nor do they realize that its been put in the hands of the WTO. One important part of the neoliberal project is trade across borders in various kinds of work. Importing workers to do jobs they can do more economically than "locals". (This initiative was only in its earliest stages in 1997 when this Note was written, now that its more than 20 yrs later its much farther along, but, except in a few service sectors like IT, the US is dragging its feet). Eventually the neoliberal project hopes that trillions of dollars "now wasted on over-high wages" could be "saved" and transformed into profits. Basically, like NAFTA, but for the rest of the country's jobs. Under Track Two of the GATS, barriers to global outsourcing, offshoring, etc. of professional and non-professional services such as work permit or visa barriers or anti-discrimination statutes that might impede outsourcing and similar are quietly being eliminated on a global scale. Outsourcing and offshoring jobs that people depend on to eat out from underneath entire countries and generations of workers is a very sensitive subject so the strategy is "Privatization by stealth".

Industry Lobbyists Gloss Over Red Flags: Trade and Public Policy Expert Lori Wallach's Testimony to the European Union

"Indeed, in parliaments around the world, many legislators consider that service sector policy – how to ensure that residents have health care, safe water, affordable electricity and gas and quality education – is within their jurisdiction rather than subject to distant “trade” negotiations. And, to the extent that most legislators are even aware of the negotiations now underway at the WTO on the GATS, their information largely comes from the perspective of service sector businesses who view the negotiations as a tool to go on the offensive to seek service sector business opportunities in other countries. The voice of the consumer who relies on having access to affordable, quality services is one that is not often considered in GATS negotiations. Yet the existing GATS rules pose significant threats to the ability of those who will live with the results – consumers – to have democratic decision-making over the service sector policies that will affect their daily lives. The existing GATS rules pose considerable threats to people’s affordable access to quality essential services and to the public interest regulations of services upon which we all rely. You have no doubt been told repeatedly that the right to regulate is secure in the GATS. It is true that the right to regulate is mentioned in the nonbinding preamble of the agreement, but the actual GATS rules trump this language, as described below. You may not know that GATS negotiators have rejected calls from the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) and others to enshrine the right to regulate in a binding article of the text of the agreement. As the original panel in the WTO challenge of the U.S. ban on internet gambling so pointedly stated: “members’ regulatory sovereignty is an essential pillar of the progressive liberalization of trade in services, but this sovereignty ends whenever rights of other members under the GATS are impaired.” 4 And now, a major push is underway to further expand the GATS – both as regards what service sectors are covered and the scope of the GATS disciplines to which domestic service sector policy must conform. In my written testimony, I have focused on four issues:..."

COMMUNICATION FROM ARGENTINA, BOLIVIA, BRAZIL, CHILE, COLOMBIA, INDIA, MEXICO, PAKISTAN, PERU, PHILIPPINES, THAILAND AND URUGUAY Categories of Natural Persons for Commitments under Mode 4 of GATS

"Mode 4 – Movement of Natural Persons to Provide Services Let’s start with the last of these categories first. A better term for “Mode 4” would be “domestic immigration policy.” In the United States, the Constitution gives the Congress exclusive authority for setting our domestic immigration policy (Article I-8.) The very notion that immigration policy would be set via GATS Mode 4 negotiations by trade negotiators in Geneva has our congressional leaders deeply concerned. Indeed, when such immigration provisions were slipped into U.S. Free 4Trade Agreements with Singapore and Chile, the agreements were nearly rejected by Congress and a commitment was obtained from the Bush Administration that future trade pacts would never again contain such provisions. I understand that here in the European Union there have been equally heated debates over immigration policy and I assume there are the same concerns about separation of powers and democratic accountability here as well. A group of developing countries led by India have joined together to forward a common position on Mode 4 that focuses on the cross border movement of professionals, but does not insist that these professionals are paid the same wages as their peers in developed nations. 5 Moreover, these proposals would set up a system within countries by which a class of workers would have their basic rights – indeed their very right to be in a country – controlled by their employer not the laws of the country in which they are working. This would not only undercut wages, work hours, vacation policy, the right to organize, and other labor policy in developed countries and generate foreseeably ugly social tension, but it would also exacerbate the problems of “brain drain” in the developing world. A respected study presented at the WTO that advocated increased Mode 4 liberalization showed that the community left behind by Mode 4 workers suffers significantly increased welfare costs. In other words, developing countries pay dearly for “brain drain” associated with outward migrating professionals. 6 Plus, the ongoing tragedy presented by the immigration of doctors and nurses from Africa to Europe and the United States has been well-documented. 7 Moreover, there have been various alarming proposals on licensing and qualification requirements (in the context of the Working Party on Domestic Regulations which is discussed in detail below). What is envisioned here are “harmonization exams” to establish equivalency and to facilitate the movement of workers across borders. National, state or provincial licensing requirements and “language competency” are characterized as unnecessary obstacles to the smooth flow of workers across borders. 8 Once professional service sectors are signed up to the GATS, “disciplines” are envisioned which would apply a “necessity test” to all domestic regulations relating to that profession. The WTO has already completed one such set of rules which apply to the accounting sector and require that licensing, qualification and technical standards be “no more trade restrictive than necessary.”" (quote from Lori Wallach Testimony to EU. The linked document is the proposal by a group of developing countries to set up and lock in a return to indentured servitude. They see this as their pay back for being in the WTO. It replaces immigration with corporate capture, for example, in the US, L1B visas - similar to H1B but with much lower wages and almost no rights. This is being pushed in on us very skillfully by what amounts to an international "coalition of the wealthy" under the radar as part of the GATS' and similar "agreements" coercive global takeover.)

"TTIP, CETA and TISA – what you need to know about EU trade agreements " (by UNISON global trade union)

(Note, liberalize means privatize and globalize, i.e. outsource often across international borders, typically via a tender, the lowest qualified bidding subcontractor gets the entitlement to do the work. Countries have to allow it, with the rationale being its temporary to allow a subcontracting firm to do business, saving money on wages, increasing profitability for firms, not permanently for immigration. Terms can be quite long, though even decades, employees are often kept in a state of precarity. Think global gig economy. or NAFTA for the rest of the jobs, FTAs undermine wages strongly. They wll start out with public sector jobs like teaching, nursing and IT for academia, etc.)

Movement of Natural Persons (Mode-4) Under GATS: Advantage Developing Countries

(by Dipankar Dey) "The actual potential of Mode-4 could not be exploited for the benefit of developing countries that enjoy comparative advantage in this mode over others. The developed countries have offered almost nothing in the Mode-4 negotiation despite liberalizing labor mobility via other mechanisms. So far, the developing country policy makers have failed to exploit the comparative advantage they claim to enjoy in Mode-4. They should be blamed either for their inability to assess the true potential of this mode of service or for their failure to chalk out an effective strategy during negotiation. The Southern negotiators should prepare themselves with appropriate strategy and tactics to enable them to put pressure on their Northern counterparts, for binding the latter's commitments on liberal market access, better working condition and protection of human rights for the immigrant workers." (See also the references cited in this essay.)