Take education out of GATS

This was the email circulated with the sign-on statement on the day of its release (20th August 2003).

Sorry for cross-posting:
International sign-on statement, "Take education out of GATS", launched,
on 20th August 2003!
You are encouraged to urgently circulate this email to education groups
(teachers unions, university associations, students unions,
school administrations, parents and teachers groups, whatever... as long
as they have a strong education link) all around the world. Signatures
to education@gatswatch.org.
As you will probably be aware, there has been much discussion amongst
the global education community of the potential impact of the WTO's
GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services) on education systems
worldwide. To a large extent, education stakeholders have reacted
negatively to the prospect of regulating education within the GATS
It is time for the global education community to make concrete this
rejection of regulating education within the GATS framework. To this end,
I am asking if your organisation will consider adding its name to the
attached sign-on statement, "Take education out of GATS". (If the
statement is not attached, it can be downloaded from
The short-term motivation for launching the attached statement is the
imminent WTO Ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico, from 10th-14th
September 2003. While GATS may seem like something of an "old" issue now,
especially amongst education stakeholders who are involved in the field of
international education, it is crucial that the global education community
realise that there is still a long way to go in warding off the threat
posed by GATS. Cancun marks the mid-point of the WTO "Doha Round" of
negotiations and will be used to add momentum to the current round of GATS
negotiations; by the end of 2004 WTO members will have finalised
which new sectors they wish to open and/or in which sectors they wish to
deepen liberalisation. And, let me remind you, promises from certain WTO
members they they do not plan to liberalise their education systems in
this round (most notably, the EU) are not sufficient grounds to believe
the threat has gone. The EU's promise does not address the "progressive
liberalisation" mandate of GATS, nor the requests and offers that
countries other than the EU will receive and transmit; we suspect that the
US is pushing for radical education liberalisation in many countries, for
example. Added to all this is the alarming prospect of education getting
caught-up in the political cross-fire and deal-making that will inevitably
accompany the Cancun ministerial.
Please consider signing the statement. The immediate plan is to urgently
collect as many organisational signatures as possible before the Cancun
meeting, to draw attention (in the inevitable flurry of WTO-related media
activity at this time) to our request that education be fully withdrawn
from GATS. However, the statement is not time-sensitive and signatures
will continue to be collected, from all over the world, after
Cancun. Indeed, as the number of signatures increases, a "critical
mass" will hopefully be attained that will convince organisations
still to sign-up that concretising their objection to regulating
education within GATS is consistent with the opinion of educational
organisations all over the world.
The "home" of the statement will be at
http://www.gatswatch.org/educationoutofgats. Organisations that wish to
sign-on should email details (organisation name, contact email address,
country of origin where applicable, web address where applicable) to
The content of http://www.gatswatch.org/educationoutofgats will evolve
over time. Signatures area already flowing in quite quickly and once the
number of initial signatures passes a certain thresshold, I will put the
signatories on the website and thenceforth will regularly update the list
to show who has signed the statement. So do check back regularly to assess
Finally, if your group can help in anyway - press work, translation work,
circulating the statement, talking to other groups to see if they will
sign, and so on - please don't hesitate to do so!
Let's ensure education is taken out of GATS! Spread the statement far and
Many thanks,
Steven Kelk - moderator of GATSeducation@yahoogroups.com
20th August 2003
Telephone: +31-618-450-696 (Dutch number)