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GATS Concerns Remain

AUS WEB SITE GATS concerns remain for tertiary education
The Association of University Staff (AUS) today expressed concern that the New Zealand Government has failed to withdraw education entirely from the General Agreement of Trades in Services (GATS).

Dr Rosenberg said that while AUS welcomed assurances that no further commitments will be made on education in the GATS rounds it was disappointing that New Zealand did not take the high ground by joining with other countries to withdraw education entirely from GATS. “A first step would have been to withdraw the reckless education commitment made in 1994. Yet the government has not made any moves to withdraw this or other commitments that conflict with its own policies”, he said.

There were a number of sectors related to tertiary education which we submitted should be excluded from the offer. We are pleased that those submissions have been reflected in the initial offer. But we remain concerned at what may happen during the negotiations.

“Despite public assurances that the Treaty of Waitangi would be protected, the government is still relying on the current inadequate commitment which provides protection only to commercial and industrial activities of Maori,” he said.

“The Government’s move to clarify the protection of public services from the GATS is non-binding”, said Dr Rosenberg. “It does not reclaim the right to regulate important services which are not in public ownership. The clarification should be widened and entered into New Zealand's schedule of commitments. Otherwise it has no legal standing before a WTO Disputes Tribunal.”

Dr Rosenberg said that assurances the initial GATS offer was likely to be a minimal one have not proved to be correct. “There are significant commitments offered. This does not bode well for the final outcome after the enormous pressures of these negotiations have been brought to bear”, he said.

“We continue to be disappointed that the government has rushed through this offer and call on it to release any requests and offer documents in a timely manner as negotiations continue.”
For further information or comment please contact:
Dr Bill Rosenberg
National President, Association of University Staff
Ph (03) 364 2801 (work) (03) 332 8525 (home) 021 680 475 (mobile)

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