Saturday, December 18, 2004

What happened of the GATS to those countries?

UPDATE: What happened in Australia?

The Australian government continues to pursue the services negotiations aggressively, and was a signatory to the paper produced for the December WTO meeting urging more developing countries to make offers.

The Australian government has not released details of its requests to other countries but has indicated that requests have been made in finance and telecommunications, access for professionals and executives, freight transport services, private education services, (English teaching and tertiary education), waste management services but (they claim) not water for human use, private health services including private hospitals and private aged care.

On Australia's own offers, the indications are that they are not likely to make immediate large changes for the May deadline to their initial offer that was published last year. But they may make changes if others make more offers, or in exchange for concessions on agriculture from the EU or the US . This is partly a negotiating tactic because other offers have not been forthcoming. But it is also because they made public commitments as the result of our community campaign last year that they would not make further offers in the areas of public health, public education, ownership of water, and cultural goals (including audio -visual services), and they know that these are very sensitive issues in the community .

On education services, the Howard government wants to set up a national publicly funded but privately run vocational education service. (currently vocational education is run by state governemnts). This could have implications for GATS commitments, as private companies may demand access to other public education funding. The Howard governments are also planning a major review of public health services which could result in privatisation.

What happened in France?

Dec 3, with the second anniversary of the Paris call of elected officials for the suspension of GAT negociations. It also marks the official burial of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) in 1998, and the defeat of the launching of the Millenium Round in Seattle in 1999.

The national, regional, departmental and municipal elected officials present adopted a charter through which they refuse to forsake their rights and responsibilities as peoples' representatives to an unelected body, the WTO. A body bent upon privatising services of all kinds, including public services.

They decided on a programme of action, in particular to take part in the April 10/17 international week of action, in order to exert pressure on government/s ahead of the sixth WTO ministerial, a ministerial which could spell disaster for farmers, for biodiversity, for peoples' rights, social rights, and indeed democracy itself, throughout the world.