Since my original story was printed, negotiations in Geneva have intensified. By June 30, 2002, every country is to have submitted to every other its wish list of services that it wants included in negotiations, and by March 31, 2003, each country is to submit its responses. All of this is being done behind closed doors, so that citizens are left to guess what services their governments are trading away. However, civil society groups did secure a leaked copy of the country demands of the European Commission, and they are shocking. The EC's demands include all aspects of culture, including print and broadcasting, postal services, energy services, water, hydro-electricity, telecommunications, and pension funds, among others. In addition, at the December 2001, WTO Ministerial meeting in Doha, Qatar, a new provision was added that commits countries to take down "tariff and non-tariff barriers" to environmental services -- including water.
The mainstream press has all but ignored this story. It is difficult to grasp and complicated to explain. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, and the ensuing war, it is even easier for governments, corporate lobby groups and global institutions like the WTO to meet in total privacy, with very few enquiring journalists to deal with.
There is, however, excellent material on the GATS available. Public Citizen, Alliance for Democracy, Friends of the Earth International and Public Services International all have information available. Information can also be found at The Council of Canadians, www.canadians.org, Polaris Institute, www.polarisinstitute.org, and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, www.policyalternatives.ca.
-- Maude Barlow
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