HONG-KONG ( CHINA), December 16, 2005 -– With World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks in deadlock over the ‘General Agreement on Trade in Services’ known as GATS, Friends of the Earth International warned today that Europe and the US administration are setting a dangerous GATS trap for developing countries.

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The EU and the US are also trying to convince unexperienced observers and delegates that their empty ‘development’ package promised here this week is going to benefit the developing nations.
At the same time, they are pursuing aggressive market opening in all sectors, and are proposing to completely remove developing country opt-in flexibilities in GATS. It is clear that Northern corporations and rich countries, not developing countries, will be the main winners if services liberalisation proceeds.
“GATS could place serious constraints on the rights of governments and citizens to regulate to protect the environment and people at the national level, and their ability to control the activities of transnational service corporations,” said Friends of the Earth International trade campaigner Alberto Villarreal.
“The way in which the US and EU are attempting to twist the GATS negotiations is quite shocking. They pretend to give to developing countries with one hand, yet are grabbing everything they can with the other. The GATS negotiations need to be stopped. It’s time to look at their real social and environmental implications.” said Ronnie Hall of Friends of the Earth International.
GATS has the potential to drive privatisation of essential services and create adverse environmental, developmental and social impacts. GATS currently includes proposals to open markets in a wide range of relevant sectors including energy (its extraction, generation, production and transportation), transport, water, travel and tourism, construction, telecommunications, financial services, health, education, park management, waste disposal and sewage and agricultural services.
Access to water, a fundamental human right, is particularly worrying. The WTO insists on turning water into a commodity and an industrial ‘service’ sector, granting to transnational corporations the right to manage water exploitation and distribution. Water liberalisation has meant bad news for many people in recent years from Cochabamba, Bolivia (where water privatisation brought an immediate 68% price rise) to Manila, Philippines, where prices increased 500% over 6 years.
The European Union has already asked more than 50 countries to open up access to their water delivery services. This plan promotes European water corporations at the expense of the poor. European service providers dominate the global water market. The world’s top two private sector water companies control 70% of all private water services between them.

For more information contact Friends of the Earth International in Hong Kong:
Ronnie Hall, Friends of the Earth International Trade Campaign (December 15-19) +852 6129 0419 or ronnieh@foe.co.uk
Alberto Villarreal Friends of the Earth International Trade Campaign> (Spanish, English) +852 6127 0200 (Dec. 15-19) or comercioredes@gmail.com
David Waskow, Friends of the Earth International Trade Campaign (Dec. 15-19) +852 6127 8644 or dwaskow@foe.org