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Look, Enough! GATS Won't Privatise Education


Look, Enough! GATS Won't Privatise Education

Recent comment that The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) will see the end of New Zealand's public education system is "patently piffle" said TLN, Executive Director, Suse Reynolds today.

GATS is about the freedom of WTO members to make commitments or not. Only Governments decide which services they want to make commitments on and they can attach whatever conditions they choose.

"Some have argued that the implementation of GATS might result in the abolition of public funding for national institutions, like many of our schools. But there has never been any proposal, or even debate, in the WTO, let alone by any New Zealand Government, advocating the abolition of public funding for services," Reynolds noted.

"New Zealand's GATS commitments require absolutely no change to the way public education is delivered."

"GATS has also been wrongly maligned by other misinformed commentators," continued Reynolds.

In the last week two local bodies have issued statements expressing varying degrees of concern about GATS and the provision of public services like water distribution and waste disposal. GATS does not require the privatisation or deregulation of either of these services.

"To put it really baldly, at present New Zealand has no specific GATS commitments on services typically supplied by local bodies. Any foreign suppliers are totally regulated by NZ law."

Finally Reynolds addressed the CTU's call for the Government to back off the WTO 31 March 2003 deadline for New Zealand's "offer" on services.

"Two thirds of our GDP is now generated by the services sector and more than a quarter of New Zealand's foreign exchange earnings come from services. We would encourage the CTU to engage actively in building the services economy, including internationally. Better rules will lead to more jobs and better opportunities for New Zealanders in those sectors," said Reynolds.


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