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Leaked documents show poor countries targetted

Leaked documents show poor countries are the main targets of GATS negotiations

“Today’s massive leak of the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) negotiation documents exposes the so-called Doha ‘development’ round as the sham we've always said it was," says Professor Jane Kelsey from the Action, Research and Education Network of Aotearoa (ARENA).

The extent of the EC’s demands that the world’s poorest countries open their services to Europe’s transnational firms has shocked even veteran analysts of the GATS negotiations.

A British-based development agency, the World Development Movement (WDM), and the international secretariat of public services unions, Public Services International, (PSI) have condemned Europe’s promises to protect and promote the interests of poorer countries as “empty rhetoric”.

Almost 90 per cent of the 109 countries targeted by the European Commission are classed as ‘developing countries’ or ‘countries in transition’.

Water and other environmental services are the EC's major targets in 72 countries, including New Zealand. This includes poorer nations whose present non-profit water delivery systems operate effectively. Other services under attack include energy, transport, retail, finance, tourism, construction, along with restrictions on foreign investment.*

“This raises serious questions about what the New Zealand Government is up to,” Kelsey says.

"The GATS ‘consultation’ document tells us almost nothing. We know demands have been made in North Asia, South Asia, South East Asia, Latin America, the South Pacific and Africa. We know also that the government is pressing poor countries to open up their postal services to Transend, despite the debacle in South Africa.

"Beyond that, the document simply says it has ‘recognised the special circumstances of developing countries in its requests and tailored them appropriately, while seeking an overall gain for our national interest’.

“It’s time the Government stopped hiding behind the WTO’s shredded veil of secrecy and released the formal documentation for us to assess what they really are up to, and what that could mean for poorer countries, the people of the Pacific and the world,” Jane Kelsey said.

Ends: Text 318 words. Contact Professor Jane Kelsey by ringing 021 765 055; (09) 373 7599 x 88006 (wk) or (09) 579 1030 (home)

* Ed Note: Initial analysis by WDM and PSI shows these ‘requests’ want to remove existing beneficial development laws and regulations that interfere with maximum foreign profit. For example: In Cameroon, at least one new local job must be created for every US$10,000 of foreign investment. In Botswana, nationals have priority in buying assets owned by foreigners. In El Salvador there is a 50% ceiling on remittance of profits abroad. In the Philippines, foreign investment buying real estate must have 60% local capital, and in Chile: foreign investors must employ 85% of staff of Chilean nationality.

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