March 19, 2001 – Friends of the Earth campaigners  are in Geneva to critically monitor the current GATS negotiations and put forward alternative vision to the neo-liberal agenda at the heart of the WTO.
Today civil society organisations representing 30 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America will throw the spotlight on what they call “a potentially devastating, largely unheard of, and profoundly undemocratic agreement”. As new WTO negotiations begin on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), citizens will today launch an international campaign to “stop the GATS attack”, at a morning press conference at the European Cultural Centre.
The campaign exposes that new GATS negotiations could radically alter the role of governments in the provision of public services and profoundly reduce the ability of governments to promote sustainable, equitable development. Negotiations have so far been driven by corporate lobbying and continued largely unobserved. Already more than 200 groups from over 40 countries have signed on to a statement calling for a moratorium to the new negotiations. They want GATS to be the subject of broad public debate with a thorough and independent assessment before new negotiations continue.
Panellist Tetteh Hormeku explains why he has travelled to Geneva: “In Seattle we exposed the unequal, undemocratic nature of the WTO but little has changed since then. With these new negotiations on services, rich countries and multinationals are once again in the driving seat. The negotiations look set to reduce our governments’ ability to protect and provide for citizens. Our basic rights are not for sale.”
Alexandra Wandel, Trade Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe: “There is a pressing need to change the rules governing international trade and investment to ensure that they properly reflect society’s basic requirements and democratic procedures. Trade and foreign investment are not and cannot be goals in themselves.”
For further information:
Alexandra Wandel, Friends of the Earth Europe Trade Campaigner:
00 49 172 7483953 (mob in Geneva) , 02 542 01 85 (Brussels office)
Marlene Barrett, NGO Press Conference organiser: 0044 (0)7712 652003 (mob)
Notes for editors:
Interviews: Panellists and other international participants are available for interview in many languages:
Speakers at the press conference include:
Martin Khor, Third World Network, Malaysia;
Mike Waghorne, Public Services International;
Mariama Williams, Gender & Trade Network, Jamaica.