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Call for education to be excluded from GATS

AUS WEB SITE University staff union calls for education to be excluded from GATS

The Association of University Staff [AUS] today welcomed a government assurance on the GATS negotiations and public education, but called on the government to have public education and other public services explicitly excluded from GATS.

Responding to a statement by Associate Education Minister, Steve Maharey, that "the government has no intention of opening up New Zealand's public tertiary education system to a greater degree of foreign competition", AUS pointed out that the government's assurance (as published on MFAT's web site) is only for the government's initial GATS offer, due on 31 March. It does not preclude offers being made in the course of the negotiations, neither does it acknowledge the dangers to public education in the GATS commitments made in 1994, including one to open primary, secondary and tertiary education to international competition.

"We retain deep concerns that intense pressure from the U.S. and other countries will lead to those principles being compromised," said Dr Bill Rosenberg, National President of AUS. "This is reinforced by the New Zealand government's request to other WTO members to open their entire education systems, public education included, to commercial competition."

"This is a staggering inconsistency with the government's stated principles," Dr Rosenberg. "How seriously will other countries take our principles when we are making demands like this of them?"

Dr Rosenberg said government must ensure that public education and other public services are explicitly excluded from GATS and pointed out that the European Commission announced in the last few days that it will not be making any requests of other countries in a number of public service areas, including education.

"If it is serious in defending its stated principles, our government should be taking a lead in the WTO on this important matter," he said.

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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