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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, it also discusses 'carve outs' and why they are needed by Canada to protect their Medicare (public health care) from Trade Agreements that try to destroy, and privatize them. This death of a thousand cuts is caused by GATS, that is what's been done to the UK's NHS.

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.

Facing Facts

Both proponents and critics agree that the scope of the GATS is very broad. Its extraordinary breadth derives from the incredible diversity of services, the architecture of the agreement, and the expansive way the GATS defines key terms. The subject matter of the GATS—services—is almost unimaginably broad. Services range from birth (midwifery) to death (burial); the trivial (shoe-shining) to the critical (heart surgery); the personal (haircutting) to the social (primary education); low-tech (household help) to high-tech (satellite communications); and from our wants (retail sales of toys) to our needs (water distribution). The GATS applies to all measures affecting “trade in services,” broadly defined. It covers measures taken by all levels of government, including central, regional, and local governments. It also applies to professional associations, standards-setting bodies, and boards of hospitals, schools and universities, where these bodies exercise authority conferred upon them by any level of government. In other words, no government action, whatever its purpose - protecting the environment, safeguarding consumers, enforcing labour standards, promoting fair competition, ensuring universal service or any other end—is, in principle, beyond GATS scrutiny and potential challenge. --- As a former director general of the WTO has correctly noted, the GATS extends “into areas never before recognized as trade policy.” Not limited to cross-border trade, it extends to every possible means of providing a service internationally, including investment. While this broad application does not mean all services-related measures violate the treaty, it does mean that any regulatory or legislative initiative in any WTO-member country must now be vetted for GATS consistency or risk possible challenge. The treaty covers “any service in any sector” with only limited exceptions; no service sector is excluded a priori. This all-inclusive framework binds member governments to certain GATS rules that already apply across all sectors—even those where no specific commitments have been made. It also means that all service sectors are on the table in ongoing, continuous negotiations."

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.

TISA Troubles

This study, co-published with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, examines the adverse impacts on public services and public interest regulation of the little-known Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), quietly being negotiated in Geneva by a group of 23 governments, including Canada. Senior CCPA trade researcher Scott Sinclair argues that under the guise of expanding international trade in services, TiSA will make it much harder for governments to regulate vital services such as energy, water, banking, transport and online services. The agreement is also designed to pry open public services to commercial involvement. While this agenda may suit the commercial interests of the transnational corporations behind the secretive TiSA negotiations, it will not serve the broader public interest.

Reckless Abandon Canada, the GATS and the Future of Health Care

This study shows that, contrary to repeated assurances from federal government officials, the government has, in fact, recklessly exposed health care to the GATS commercial rules. Matthew Sanger made the discovery that health insurance has already been included in the list of Canadian services which are subjected to the full force of the GATS rules.

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.

Perilous Lessons: The Impact of the WTO Services Agreement (GATS) on Canada's Public Education System

Written for professionals and citizens alike, this book provides a primer on a little-known agreement within the World Trade Organization, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). It highlights the threats the treaty already poses and, using highly plausible scenarios, describes how it could undermine public education in the future. Trade policy specialists Matt Sanger and Jim Grieshaber-Otto dissect federal government efforts to reassure and mislead Canadians about the threats GATS poses to public education. They advocate specific changes to Canada's negotiating approach to safeguard our vital public education system. GATS "services" negotiations that are now underway in Geneva pose a significant danger to our public education system. Reading this book is a critical first step towards doing something about it.

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.

Canada's CCPA's (progressive NGO) submission on the USMCA (new NAFTA)

CCPA recommendations for a better North American trade model The all-party House of Commons trade committee is consulting Canadians on their priorities for bilateral and trilateral North American trade in light of the current renegotiation of NAFTA. In the CCPA’s submission to this process, Scott Sinclair, Stuart Trew, and Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood argue for a different kind of trading relationship that is inclusive, transformative, and forward-looking—focused on today’s real challenges, including climate change, the changing nature of work, stagnant welfare gains, and unacceptable levels of inequality in all three North American countries. The CCPA submission largely repeats advice given to Global Affairs Canada during the department’s consultation on the NAFTA renegotiations, but is updated to take into account some of the proposals put forward by Canada and the U.S. during the first three rounds of talks.

Rough trade: A critique of the draft Cancun ministerial declaration (2003)

The history of the WTO shows that millions of poor people all around the world have paid a huge price for its capture and hijacking of democracy. It's naive to think that that the big countries or the WTO would somehow change their behavior and restore democratic rule when it was their own poor people who were paying that price.

"Asking for Trouble" by Ellen Gould

In April 2006, the Alberta and British Columbia governments signed a far-reaching agreement – the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA). Advocates of TILMA have underlined its significance, describing the agreement as an “erasing of the provincial boundary for all purposes except voting and the colour of the license plate,” “the single most important economic event to happen in Western Canada in the last hundred years,” and “breaking down all of the economic barriers between the two provinces to create one economy out of the two.”