Launch of the Campaign «No sell out of public services»
26 June 2001
Hardly anyone in Switzerland is aware of the negotiations currently taking place in Geneva concerning WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), agreed on since 1994. The negotiations started in February this year and supposed to last three years, concern which areas of the services sector are to be deregulated, in other words opened to the international market. «Non-governmental organizations all over the world are concerned that the largely unknown GATS agreement with its wishy-washy wording is defined unilaterally by the requirements of the services industry, and is bound to jeopardize basic public services on a worldwide basis» says Marianne Hochuli of Berne Declaration at the launch of the campaign.
The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is the first multilateral agreement on services. «For the first time, in this agreement, the international trade in education or health services is mentioned as if these were ordinary consumer goods, to be subject to laws of supply and demand», comments Eric Decarro of the labor union VPOD (public services personnel).
Transnational corporations are among the most ardent proponents of deregulation and privatization, eager to enter new markets which private business has hardly played any or no role at all up to now. Alessandro Pelizzari of attac Switzerland concludes that «everything that can be marketed today can also be privatized».
These negotiations on deregulation are being conducted in a completely unaccountable and undemocratic way under exclusion of the public. «Decisions with such a huge impact on peoples’ living and working conditions, and which will result in such incisive changes need to be discussed on a broad democratic basis», demands Rita Schiavi of GBI, the labor union of construction and industrial workers.
Therefore, Berne Declaration, the labor unions comedia, GBI, Syndikat Medienschaffender, Unia, VPOD together with attac Switzerland and supported by numerous NGOs, are launching a campaign with post cards to be mailed to the Federal Councillor Pascal Couchepin. They demand that Mr. Couchepin initiates steps to
- prevent the subordination of public services to WTO trade rules
- allow governments, specifically those in Southern countries, to retain competence to pass national regulations on investments
- reopen discussion on commitments already entered into in connection with GATS, have them negotiated in public and, where necessary, revoked.