The controversial General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) of the World Trade Organisation has generated major social concern about the implications for the equitable provision of basic public services.
The United Kingdom is home to a particularly influential services industry lobby, which operates through an organisation called International Financial Services, London (IFSL). Two IFSL working groups, the Liberalisation of Trade in Services (LOTIS) Committee and the High-Level LOTIS Group, constitute a veritable corporate-state alliance.
The WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (the "GATS") has very much underpinned expansion without regulation and supervision, so the financial corporations had the guarantee that their expansion would be underpinned. But financial services are not the same as other services – they need special supervisory structures.
The language contained in agreements being negotiated by the EU through the WTO with their southern counterparts often deliberately diguises real political goals, obscuring the negative economic implications for those countries of the neoliberal agenda.
The financial crisis should be recognized as a very clear example of how the free trade and free market theory has failed, why the WTO should turn around away from this neo-liberal model and allow for all services and trade to be at the service of people and the planet, not of corporate profits.
As the world is still assessing one of the most violent shocks in international financial markets ever, and measures to avoid future financial crises are still not in place, developing countries should be cautious of dangers associated with further liberalisation of their financial sectors.
Ten years on from Seattle, TNI and other activists from Enlazando Alternativas have mobilised in Geneva together with the global network Our World is Not For Sale (OWINFS) to expose the role of the WTO and the "free trade" agreements in causing economic and climate crisis.