Behind GATS 2000
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 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 like education, health and water; and for governments' right to regulate in the interests of financial stability, economic and social development, and environmental protection. Such concerns are only heightened when the European Commission declares quite baldly, "The GATS is first and foremost an instrument for the benefit of business", while parliaments, trade unions and NGOs are excluded from any say as to whether public services should be commodified at all, much less subject to the vagaries of global competition.
In March 2001, hundreds of groups from around the world signalled the launch of a global anti-GATS campaign by issuing the "Stop the GATS Attack" declaration. The campaign intensified with the acceleration of the GATS talks after the World Trade Organisation Ministerial in Doha in November 2001, when June 30 2002 was set as the deadline for governments to finalise the lists of the domestic services opened up to the global market and those requested of other countries.
Given the fundamental threat posed to public services and the radical challenge to elected governments' right to serve the public interest, this TNI Briefing is intended to educate the public as to the agendas of major services industry lobby groups, particularly in the European Union and the USA, and the inordinate influence they wield as regards the GATS negotiations internationally. At the same time, it draws attention to the reprehensible exclusion of parliaments, trade unions and NGOs given the sectors that GATS aims to commodify.