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“Bring It On !” Trade Network Tells EU

22 April 2002

Trading Services For Agriculture - “Bring It On !” Trade Network Tells EU

Documents leaked by the British media suggest the European Union may be prepared to consider eliminating agricultural subsidies and trade barriers in exchange for significant liberalisation of global services trade.

“Bring it on !” was the response of Trade Liberalisation Network Executive Director, Stephen Jacobi to the EU’s “wish list” for services negotiations the Doha trade round. “New Zealand has more to gain than perhaps any other nation from the elimination of Europe’s disastrous farm subsidies and trade barriers. If it ever came to a choice between retaining New Zealand’s Overseas Investment Commission and obtaining free entry of New Zealand butter and lamb into Europe I know what side my money would be on”.

Mr Jacobi said New Zealand had nothing to fear from further liberalisation of trade in services. “New Zealand’s services industries are internationally competitive and have been pressing the Government to seek the reduction of trade barriers in negotiations with Singapore and Hong Kong. Negotiations in the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) could open up new global opportunities for financial services, consulting, engineering, education and postal services.”

Mr Jacobi said the GATS was the most misunderstood of all the WTO rules. “The GATS does not require governments to privatise essential services like education or water or to offer government subsidies to private providers. Under GATS countries are free to continue to regulate in the national interest and to maintain exceptions. But they cannot not expect other countries to liberalise when they are not prepared to do so. That applies particularly to Europe where many services sectors are still heavily protected”.

Mr Jacobi said the EU’s wish list was an opening bid in a complex negotiation. “Wishes, like dreams, are free. Whether the EU can obtain all it wants is another matter. That’s what trade negotiations are all about”, concluded Mr Jacobi.

Ends

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