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Cover Blown: GATS report launches today

Cover Blown: GATS report launches today

Serving Whose Interests?, Professor Jane Kelsey's detailed guide to what the secretly-negotiated GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services) means for New Zealand, is being launched in Wellington today (Wednesday). It will dangerously raise the blood pressure in ministerial offices and corporate boardrooms alike.

Described as a "whistle-blowing, bell-ringing" expose of how Labour and National governments have tried to lock in the foreign takeover of New Zealand’s essential services, the 140-page report is based on a similar guide produced by the World Development Movement in London.

The GATS, an agreement first established in 1994 and run by the World Trade Organisation, aims to secure access for foreign firms to local and national services throughout the world. The gains for our services ‘exporters’ will be minimal, if any at all. The main beneficiaries will be the huge transnational corporations mainly based in the United States and Europe.

Author Kelsey says the report's release is designed to fill the information vacuum about the GATS. Last June, the government received ‘requests’ from other countries, including the US and European Union, to commit even more basic services to the GATS free trade rules. It has promised to consult. But, as of today, its long-overdue consultation paper has still not appeared.

That the government has failed to keep that promise to consult only serves to heighten our concerns, especially given the WTO's 31 March deadline to report back.

The launch of Serving Whose Interests? will take place at a function at Wellington City Council Chambers hosted by Wellington City Councillor Ray Ahipene-Mercer from 5-7pm.

Speakers, in addition to Professor Kelsey will include Moana Jackson (Ngati Kahungungu and Ngati Porou); Secretary of the NZ Council of Trade Unions, Paul Goulter; Wellington City Councillor Stephanie Cook; New Zealand Nurses representative Eileen Brown; and Dr. Bill Rosenberg, President of the Association of University Staff.

Serving Whose Interests? is published by ARENA (Action, Research and Education Network of Aotearoa). Copies are available from PO Box 2450, Christchurch for $20 (+$3 p&p) or from the ARENA website at http://www.arena.org.nz

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