GATSwatch News, 16 April 2002

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Leaked Confidential EU Documents Confirm Controversial Character of GATS Negotiations

Amsterdam, 16 April 2002 -- A series of leaked confidential documents, prepared by the European Commission for the WTO negotiations on liberalisation of trade in services (GATS 2000), has been released today on the GATSwatch web site.

Go to the leaked documents

The released documents contain the requests that the European Commission is proposing to make for removing or adapting laws and regulations that restrict trade in services in 29 WTO member states, including the US, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, South Korea and India. The request lists confirm the controversial character of the GATS negotiations and demonstrate the urgent need to Stop the GATS Attack.

The leaked documents show that the European Union intends to ask all WTO member states to open up the water sector (including water collection, purification, distribution and wastewater treatment) for international competition and to liberalise large parts of the energy sector and various other sectors, including retail, tourism and transport.

In the WTO services talks (GATS 2000), the European Commission negotiates on behalf of the fifteen EU member states. The European Commisison's negotiating mandate for the GATS talks was agreed in 1999, before the Seattle WTO Ministerial. Despite the breakdown of the Seattle Ministerial and the growing global opposition against further WTO trade liberalisation talks, the Commission's mandate has never been updated!

In general, the handling of the GATS 2000 talks by the European Union has been characterised by a high level of secrecy. This makes effective democratic control of the UE external trade policy virtually impossible. If it had been up to the European Commission, parliamentarians and the general public would never had access to the draft request lists released today on GATSwatch.

Apart from demanding other WTO members to liberalise their servcies sectors, the European Union will also receive demands for services liberalisation from other WTO member states. According to the Doha Ministerial Declaration, WTO members should file their request lists before 30 June 2002. It is to be expected that the EU and its member states will receive requests to liberalise education, health or water services.

Such political bargaining with essential services should not be allowed. Therefore, EU-based groups campaigning on GATS are requesting their governments to provide full openness with regards to the GATS talks and to disapprove the proposed EU request lists. The groups also call for a general moratorium on the GATS 2000 talks, to allow a democratic debate over the issues that are at stake.

In January 1998, the release of a draft text of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, then being negotiated within the OECD, contributed to the rapid growth of an international opposition against such an agreement, triggering the final breakdown of the MAI negotiations less than twelve months later.

Today's release of the confidential EU documents might have a similar effect on the GATS 2000 talks. At any rate, it proves once again that international co-operation among non-governmental organisations and the internet are effectively turning secret trade diplomacy into something of the past.

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