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Bombshell leak of documents blows GATS secrecy

Bombshell leak of documents blows GATS secrecy

Leaked copies of the European Commission’s (EC) aggressive requests to more than 100 countries involved in the GATS negotiations were posted on the website of Canadian NGO, Polaris Institute in Ottawa today.

“These leaks are as significant as those that spelled the ‘beginning of the end’ for the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI),” says Professor Jane Kelsey on behalf of ARENA (Action, Research and Education Network of Aotearoa).

“No one should under-estimate the panic it will create at the WTO, as people learn what their governments have been asked to give away to Europe’s transnationals.

“We believe that the ‘Dracula principle’ (the killing of obnoxious agreements by exposing them to the light of day), could bring the GATS negotiations to a standstill.

“The message to the WTO and to the New Zealand government is crystal clear. People everywhere, even within the ranks of government and the WTO, recognise these secret negotiations are anti-democratic. They are increasingly prepared to put their jobs on the line to let the world know what is really happening.

“It must be obvious by now" Kelsey says, "that despite obsessive WTO secrecy, these leaks will continue. Surely it is better to concede the public’s right to know than to continue the cloak and dagger style of negotiations that show utter contempt for democracy and national sovereignty?”

Given that the EC’s requests are fully public, suggests Kelsey, other countries including New Zealand should also release their secret requests.

“We already know from another leaked document that New Zealand has demanded the EC remove its protection for public services and public utilities. Somehow the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade forgot to tell us this in its summarized GATS ‘consultation’ document.

“We should know what else the New Zealand Government is asking other governments to do – especially poorer countries – and how these measure up to the reassurances the Government has been giving." Kelsey says other countries' actual demands to New Zealand to remove protection for national services should also be opened for public examination.

“Releasing the full text of the requests would be just the first step. It’s time that democracy took precedence over secret negotiations that promote the right of transnational companies to profit from other countries’ basic services,” Professor Jane Kelsey says.

It was the Ottawa-based Polaris Institute who secured and released the leaked draft of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment in 1997, which forced open and eventually sunk the MAI. The leaked EC demands can be seen at www.polarisinstitute.org

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