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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.

The Effects of International Trade Agreements on Canadian Health Measures: Options for Canada with a View to the Upcoming Trade Negotiations (2002)

Richard Ouellet, Laval University (October 2002) -- "It will be noted that while Canada has avoided the potential effects that the international economic agreements could have on health care, it has done so by taking advantage of the structure of agreements based on quite different approaches. • If the Canadian government wishes to continue exempting our public health systems from the effects of these agreements, it will have to acknowledge that doing so by simultaneously using approaches as different as those of the GATS and the NAFTA is not without risks. What is needed is an integrated approach that reflects trade concerns while respecting the health care priorities of governments."