Initial GATS offers
10 April 2003 -- 15 WTO member states have now filed an initial GATS offer. The countries that have submitted intial offers are: Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United States and Uruguay.
This low response comes as no surprise, as only less than a third of the WTO membership has so far tabled initial GATS requests (which was supposed to have happened before 30 June 2002). It is becoming ever more obvious that the GATS negotiations are being driven by a small group of OECD countries, basically pursuing the agenda of big services corporations based in those countries.
The lack of progress and in particular the low participation of developing countries in the services negotiations adds to the general malaise of the current WTO trade talks and underlines that the term "Doha Development Agenda" is to be considered pure rethorics.
The thirty WTO members that tabled GATS requests still refuse to publish the full text of their requests. The only requests that are available in full are those from the European Union, which were leaked and published in February 2003.
As considers the initial offers, only Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway and the United States have derestricted their initial offer and made them available to the general public. Japan has only published a summary of its initial offer, while I have found it impossible to find any detailed information on the other initial offers.
The European Union has failed signally to meet the 31st March deadline for submitting initial offers. Currently, EU Member States and the Commission are trying to overcome disagreement over certain parts of the Commission's draft initial offer. In particular the Commission's proposed 'Mode 4' commitments have proven quite controversial with some EU Member State governments.
According to Brussels insiders, it will at least take until Easter to finalize the EU's initial offer. A new Commission proposal on Mode 4 is to be discussed with Member States services experts in the Committee 133 ad hoc services meeting on Wednesday 9 April 2003. On Monday 14 April this proposal will be discussed at Ministerial level in the General Affairs Council. The Commisison then hopes to finalize the initial offer in the full members' meeting of the Committee 133 on Wednesday 16 April in Brussels.The Swiss government has announced that it hopes to present its offer by 15 April. Initial offers and reactions by anti-GATS campaign groups
All EU GATS Cards on the Table
25 February 2003 -- According to Pascal Lamy, interviewed on BBC 4 Radio this morning: "It's a joke. These documents have been available since July 2002". In fact, Mr. Lamy was joking himself: on 4 July 2002 the EC made available a very limited summary of its requests to 109 countries.The summary is roughly 10 pages long, whereas the documents put in the public domain today run into thousands of pages. These documents, the EU's actual negotiating requests have never been in the public domain before.
A very selected group of people could, under conditions of the strictest secrecy, consult these 109 documents. For example, Green MEP Caroline Lucas, one of the few Members of the European Parliament who did get access to the 109 requests, reported how she was "instructed to keep the papers in a locked safe, to refrain from copying them or emailing them, and to shred them after reading."
Last week, after a closed doors meeting between members of the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy and Commissioner Pascal Lamy, Social Democrat MEP Harlem Désir sent out a press release in which he objected against the fact that most MEPs have to rely on leaks through NGOs as they only have access to summaries of the negoting documents.
The 109 EU requests were recently obtained by the Canadian Polaris Institute and have now been put in the public domain. After their release it has become very obvious why the European Commission has put so much effort into keeping these documents secret. The 109 requests reveal how the European Union is putting pressure on developing countries to opening up their services markets (including essential services like drinking water or energy) markets for European services TNCs. For example, countries like Tanzania, Mozambique and Bangladesh are asked to open up their markets for drinking water supply.
In pursuing a corporate-driven agenda towards developing countries, the European Commission seems to have forgotten the golden rule of doing as you would be done by: according to the EU's initial draft GATS offer, the EU itself is (with good reason!) not intending to liberalize drinking water and other public services under the GATS.
Incoming requestsThe European Commission has prepared a general summary of the incoming requests, with no country-specific details. This summary served as the basis for a much contested civil society consultation on the EU GATS offer.
EU Draft Initial Offer
Revised version (10 March 2003)
First version (5 February 2003)MFN Exemptions (Annex to EU Initial GATS Offer first draft, 5 Feb 2003)