New Internationalist

Gats Attacks

Issue 355

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Privatization / GATS ATTACKS

GATS ATTACKS: Mutant Alien Invaders From Another World!
SEE-
Secret, sinister trade negotiations rampaging through country after country!
SEE- 
Vital public services swallowed whole in the bone crushing jaws of corporate power!
SEE- 
Ecological, labour and human rights torn apart in a savage orgy of profit lust!
starring...
The GENERAL • Agreement ON • Trade in SERVICES
a MULTINATIONAL EXCESS productionin association with
THE WORLD TRADE ORGANISATION

Those folks at the World Trade Organization – what will they think of next? First it was the Multilateral Agreement on Investment. Now it’s the General Agreement on Trade in Services. GATS is a permission slip for transnational corporations to stampede national governments and muscle their way into global markets. It’s a clear set of rules for commercializing and privatizing any and all public services – from education to social welfare. Elected officials will be stripped of their power to create public policy on behalf of their citizens in what turns out to be a cleverly packaged, all-out assault on democracy. A final agreement on the GATS is due to be signed in 2005, part of new WTO round launched at Doha, Qatar in November 2001.

THE WEAPONS

NATIONAL TREATMENT
Forbids governments from favouring domestic firms over foreign-based companies. Governments are prevented from stepping in to support local businesses. The rule applies only to certain services in the GATS now. But the goal is to apply it across the board to all services including social programmes.

MARKET ACCESS
Guarantees irreversible access to the markets of other member countries. Once a country agrees to provide market access for a particular service sector, foreign corporations must be granted unrestricted, irreversible entry into the country. Foreign firms can set up as many operations as they want, even if the increase causes economic, environmental or social damage.

MOST FAVOURED NATION
Grants sovereignty to service firms from all other member countries by ensuring that host governments provide them better-than-equal treatment - regardless of their track records on social, labour or environmental issues. This can prevent any country or regional government from restricting foreign operators into their country using human rights, labour or environmental standards as a criterion.

DOMESTIC REGULATION
Member countries must prove to trade tribunals that their regulations on technical standards, licensing and qualifications are not 'unnecessary barriers to trade in services' and 'are not more burdensome than necessary'. This rule discourages governments from passing and enforcing environmental, labour and public health regulations. Local laws may be ruled illegal under the GATS.

EXPANSION RULE
Member countries commit to successive negotiations to expand the agreement and increase the number and type of services that will be included. Like a ratchet it will constrain future governments' ability to exercise democratic and regulatory authority.

SECURITY EXEMPTION
Governments are exempted from WTO rules governing trade in goods and materials it considers necessary to protect 'essential security interests'. This permits subsidies to the aerospace and military industries and encourages traffic in arms, ammunition and implements of war.

PENALTY RULE
Countries can't change their commitments within the first three years and changes made after three years require countries to negotiate 'compensatory adjustments'. This means a country will have to agree to compensate all other member countries. And big business is certain to demand major compensation.

DISPUTE SETTLEMENT RULE
Tribunals composed of unelected trade 'experts' meet in closed sessions to resolve disagreements between countries about trade rules. They have the power to enforce their rulings by allowing the winning country to impose economic sanctions until the losing country changes its laws. These tribunals can rule against national, provincial, state or local regulations that strive to protect the environment or public health simply by finding them 'more burdensome than necessary'.


PUBLIC SERVICES THREATENED

[image, unknown] Postal Services
Net worth
$400 billion

[image, unknown] Water and Sewage
Net worth
$1,000 billion

[image, unknown] Education
Net worth
$2,000 billion
[image, unknown] Social Services
Net worth
$2,500 billion

[image, unknown] Healthcare
Net worth
$3,500 billion

[image, unknown] Energy
Net worth
$4,000 billion

Text and symbols adapted from GATS Attack, an entertaining,
educational card game produced by the Polaris Institute:
www.polarisinstitute.org/games/gats_attack.html


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