Campaigners launched international protest as WTO services negotiations begin

Civil society organisations representing 30 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America threw 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 launched an international campaign to "stop the GATS attack", at a 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.

Speakers at the press conference included:

  • Tetteh Hormeku, Africa Trade Network, Ghana;
  • Martin Khor, Third World Network, Malaysia;
  • Ziad Abdel Samad, Arab NGO Network for Development, Lebanon;
  • Mike Waghorne, Public Services International;
  • Mariama Williams, Gender & Trade Network, Jamaica;
  • Jessica Woodroffe, World Development Movement, UK
  • Chaired by Marianne Hochuli, Berne Declaration, Switzerland

Panellist Tetteh Hormeku explained why he had 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."