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Education Concerns Heightened by GATS Demands

AUS WEB SITEEducation Concerns Heightened by GATS Demands
Long-held concerns about the effect of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) on public tertiary education were heightened by the release of information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) on Friday.

Dr Bill Rosenberg, National President of the Association of University Staff [AUS] said that least one country, thought to be the USA, has asked New Zealand to open up its entire tertiary and adult education sectors to foreign competition as part of the GATS agreement.

Dr Rosenberg said that, if accepted, this would include access to subsidies and limits on the ability of our government in its wish to regulate the sector. “It would accelerate commercialisation and widen leakage of scarce public funds to private and international companies,” he said.

New Zealand, for its part, has asked other countries to open up their entire education sectors to foreign competition.

Dr Rosenberg today accused the New Zealand Government of putting the university sector, and public tertiary education generally, into an extraordinarily exposed position.

“Although it has proposed guiding principles for the liberalisation offers it intends to make in New Zealand, it appears to disregard those principles in the requests it has made of other countries. It is effectively saying to other countries: we expect you to do what we won’t do at home”.

Dr Rosenberg says that AUS is most disturbed that the government has given away any moral high ground in protecting public education by its requests of other countries.

AUS shares the concern of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions [NZCTU] at the extensive requests made of New Zealand, and joins calls for a substantial extension of time beyond the 28 February deadline for comments to MFAT, and the 31 March deadline for New Zealand’s initial GATS offer to the WTO, to allow proper public debate. AUS will be joining other unions and organisations in a day of action against public services being included in the GATS, on 13 March.

Ends

For further information or comment please contact:
Dr Bill Rosenberg
National President
Association of University Staff
Ph (03) 364 2801 (work)
Ph (03) 332 8525
Ph 021 680 475 (mobile)
Email bill.rosenberg@canterbury.ac.nz

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