Commission denies rumours over secret document

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Commission denies rumours over secret document calling for dismantling of public monopolies in developing countries

Brussels, 19/04/2019 (Agence Europe) - The European Commission has flatly denied the existence of a "secret" strategic document aimed at securing from EU trading partners, including developing countries like India, China, Egypt and Mexico, that they dismantle their public monopolies in a series of sectors as essential as water supply and the management of energy resources, in the framework of multinational negotiations on the services chapter of the Doha Agenda.

The "allegations" put forward by non-governmental organisations, such as Friends of the Earth, taken up by the British daily, The Guardian, are "incorrect", said the spokespers, recalling that sectoral negotiations had begun well before Doha, in 1999, in accordance with the commitment made at the end of the Uruguay Round, and that "some of our ideas for negotiations have already been in the public domain for some time now".

What the European Commission is currently doing, "is to consult with Member States on the requests we shall be making of our trading partners in view of submitting them in Geneva in June, and, depending on their reactions, their suggestions, will take a stance in areas where we are seeking to secure openings", he added. NGOs got together earlier this week to denounce the "secret" list of wishes that the European Commission is said to have concocted, unbeknown to the European Parliament and representatives of civil society, in view of pressuring the rest of the world, including the developing world, to "completely liberalise" "crucial" sectors to the benefit of foreign operators.

The Guardian criticised these positions (that were obtained by the Corporate Europe Observatory and have nowbeen published on the Guardian website). The list covers thirty-odd countries at the moment, including China, India, Canada, Egypt, Mexico and the United States, for which the EU's "tough stance" involved requirements, for example, that Mexico drops its ban on foreigners owning land within 50km of the border, according to the Guardian, and destroying Malaysia's capacity to regulate its own financial sector.

The Commission has categorically denied the allegations in the Guardian that it is planning to make developing countries' ability to regulate foreign investment a "key target". A Commission spokesperson said that the Commission was on the other side of the fence from the ideas described in the Guardian article, and stressed the efforts already made by the EU to fully integrate developing countries in the global trading system.

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