Local communities against GATS
In various European countries, local communities have started signing resolutions against the current negotiations on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), demanding that their respective trade ministers:
- Achieve a moratorium on the current negotiations;
- Ensure that a broad evaluation of already undertaken liberalisation and privatisation of public services is carried out as agreed in the first GATS Agreement;
- Ensure that in any future negotiation all sectors of society and all levels, including local communities, are involved in the discussion process.
In Austria more than 280 local communities - which is more than 10 per cent of all communities - have signed a resolution demanding a moratorium on the GATS negotiations. Vienna, as well as some regional capitals like Linz and Graz, are among the signatories.
In France to date over 220 "collectivités" (towns, larger cities, departments and two regions) have declared themselves non-GATS zones and called for a moratorium. These include two regions, 16 departments and many major cities such as Paris, Montpellier, Grenoble, Auxerre, Aix en Provence and Le Creusot. Altogether, 12 million French people are now included in these zones.
In the UK more than 26 local councils and regions - which is about 6% - have passed GATS motions to call for a halt in the negotiations. Edinburgh, Oxford, Bristol, Manchester and Brighton are among the larger cities that have signed motions and sent them to the Minister for Trade.
In Italy two provinces - Genova and Ferrara - as well as 10 communities have signed the demand for a GATS moratorium.
Additional information may be found on national Stop-GATS Campaign websites initiatives:
- Austria: Stopp GATS Kampagne
- France: ATTAC
- United Kingdom: World Development Movement
- Italy: Rete Lilliput
This document has been prepared by the Seattle to Brussels Network, which is a pan-European NGO network campaigning to promote a sustainable, democratic and accountable system of trade that benefits all.
This local authority notes that there has been little information or data provided by the respective governments in Europe to local authorities about the General Agreement on Trade in Services, despite negotiations to expand the agreement being underway. In particular, current EU negotiating priorities are not public and forthcoming information about the negotiating requests made of services in the various EU member countries by other WTO members should be made available. It further notes that to date there has been no independent assessment of its impact. It is therefore concerned that governments are making effectively irreversible commitments, which apply to all levels of government, with little or no real understanding of the impact of these on service provision both domestically or worldwide.
To safeguard meaningful local democracy, this local authority will:
1. Write to the Minister for …. (Trade or Local Government), to call for the following action concerning assessment and scope of GATS, and its impact on local government.
- The GATS negotiations should be halted until an independent and thorough impact assessment of past and proposed measures under GATS and their likely impact on key services, both in the … (country) and internationally, is undertaken.
- Following the comprehensive assessment and analysis, the Government should discuss and consult on the findings and the proposals under GATS.
- Urgent clarification should be sought about whether public services are exempt from GATS.
- Any assessment should include an analysis of what restrictions may be required to allow for flexibility in local decision-making.
- Local authorities should be made aware of current EU negotiating priorities and consulted regarding the negotiating requests made of … (country) services by other WTO members, where these impact upon local authorities roles, duties and responsibilities.
2.Write to the Local Government Association requesting that they put pressure on the … (trade minister) until the above points have been achieved.