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Postcard Campaign For Supachai Panitchpakdi Visit

GATT Watchdog
PO Box 1905
Christchurch

MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

Postcard campaign to mark NZ Visit of Mike Moore's successor at WTO

24 September 2001

To mark the visit of World Trade Organisation Director-General-in-waiting, Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi, GATT Watchdog. has launched a postcard campaign against the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). GATT Watchdog has also produced factsheets on GATS and local government, and GATS and healthcare for use in the local body and district health board elections.

"The Government must not participate in any further international negotiations on trade in services until a thorough, independent assessment of the impacts of GATS on basic services in New Zealand and internationally has been conducted. It should withdraw its services offer in all trade agreements - including the bilateral deal with Hong Kong," said a GATT Watchdog spokesman, Aziz Choudry.

"Under GATS, governments agree to open the economy to foreign suppliers of certain services. GATS threatens to restrict a government's ability to ensure access to affordable, adequate basic services for all by removing any restrictions and internal government regulations in the area of service delivery considered to be "barriers to trade." It also has serious implications for the powers of local authorities"

"Services are big business. They make up between half and three quarters of all economic activity. To the world's transnational corporations they are a lucrative market which they want to control. As the European Commission says: "GATS is not just something which exists between governments. It is first and foremost an instrument for the benefit of business.""

"Under GATS and in sectors in which it has made commitments, a government cannot treat service suppliers from one WTO country better than those from another. It can't give better treatment to its locals that in gives to foreign suppliers in the services for which it has made GATS commitments. It cannot limit the access of foreign suppliers to its market in those services by imposing limits on the total number of facilities or operations, requirements for local content or local hiring."

"GATS is an extension of the same free market policies which the Labour/Alliance government was elected to reject. It is a backdoor to more privatisation. These services are not mere commodities to be bought and sold in a competitive market - many are essential to full participation in society," he said.

A June 26 2001 New Zealand government document submitted to the WTO Council for Trade in Services states: "First and foremost, New Zealand will actively encourage Members to explore ways in which existing commitments in all services sectors, in terms of both market access and national treatment, can be progressively liberalised"

"New Zealand already has probably the most wide-ranging GATS commitments of any WTO member. Now the government is prepared to offer all services - including all education, health and water services - to the world market. This is outrageous".

"In Britain, over 260 MPs called for an independent assessment of the likely impact of GATS on key services. In Canada, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities is seeking a carve-out from coverage by the GATS. With local elections coming up soon, and a general election next year, it's high time New Zealand politicians - national and local - faced up to this issue, before the policy options available to future governments which want to reverse market policies become even more limited" said Mr Choudry.

For further comment contact Aziz Choudry notoapec@clear.net.nz


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