While we’re watching the War, WTO takes over…


Richard Moore

Date: Tue, 1 Apr 2003 19:22:46 -0800
To: •••@••.••• (hi list)
From: Tom Atlee <•••@••.•••>
Subject: CII HI - While we're watching the War, WTO takes over...


    Bush Administration Poised to Trade Away Washington
    Laws at WTO Negotiating Table in Geneva
    March 28, 2003

Bush Administration Plans March 31 Response to EU
Demands to Open U.S. Water and Energy Systems, Postal
Services and More to Foreign Ownership and Limit State

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Without approval by Washington's
legislature or Gov. Gary Locke, the Bush administration
plans to submit offers next week at the World Trade
Organization (WTO) that could require the state to open
public services to foreign, for-profit ownership and
strictly curtail state regulation of banking,
insurance, electricity, water systems, transportation,
alcohol distribution and professional services,
including those provided by doctors, lawyers and

States would be required to conform their policies to
global rules established as part of negotiations
occurring under the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in
Services (GATS). The threat to numerous state laws and
policies was revealed only weeks ago when the European
Union's (EU) demands of the U.S. were leaked from
secretive talks being held at the WTO's Geneva

"With the public, press and elected officials all
focused on the war, the Bush administration is poised
to effect a silent, slow-motion coup d'etat on
democratic governance in the United States," said Lori
Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade
Watch. "These so-called trade negotiations could
rewrite wide swaths of local law without the support of
state legislatures or the knowledge of state attorneys
general or governors."

The leaked documents showed that a stunning scope of
domestic policies that citizens expect to be set by
their federal, state and local officials are poised to
be eliminated in global negotiations pushed by giant,
multinational service sector corporations such as
Andersen, Halliburton and RWE/Thames Water. The
policies include the privatization and deregulation of
public energy and water utilities, postal services,
higher education and alcohol distribution systems; the
right of foreign firms to obtain U.S. government small
business loans; and deregulation of private-sector
industries such as insurance, banking, mutual funds and

The EU also requested the elimination of Washington's
alcohol control distribution system, which generated
more than $175 million for the state in 2001, with
nearly $37 million earmarked for state healthcare, $41
million for local governments and $15 million for drug
and alcohol research and treatment programs. Alcohol
was a $508 million business in the state in 2001.
Seventeen other states with alcohol control systems
generate combined annual revenue of more than $1
billion from their state-owned wholesale and retail

"The 21st Amendment not only provided for the repeal of
national prohibition, but it also provided each state
the right to choose how alcohol would be regulated
within the state," said Jim Sgueo, executive director
of the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association
(NABCA). "Should the United States agree to the EU's
request that the control state systems be dissolved, it
would undermine the Constitution of the United States
and the states' rights provided by it."

In addition, the EU specifically requests the
elimination of Washington laws regarding legal

In a letter sent last month to Washington Attorney
General Christine Gregoire, Public Citizen wrote,
"State and local regulatory authority could be
curtailed profoundly and the Constitutional balances of
federalism irreversibly biased if states do not act now
to protect their interests during these ongoing

In the past, including when the WTO was formed, U.S.
trade negotiators made binding commitments regarding
state and local regulatory authority without formally
consulting state legislatures and other local
officials. The national consumer group Public Citizen
and civil society groups worldwide have called for a
moratorium on the GATS talks and a public process
involving state and local officials.

Areas in which the EU's demands would impact laws in
all U.S. states include:

       Professional services, including legal,
           accounting, auditing and bookkeeping,
           as well as architectural services, urban
           planning, integrated engineering and
       Business services, including research and
           development, as well as real estate,
           rental and leasing, security services,
           printing and publishing;
       Distribution services, including alcohol,
           tobacco and food;
       Private higher education services;
       Environmental services, including drinking
           water, wastewater and waste management;
       Energy services, and electricity wholesale
           and retail;
       Financial services, including insurance,
           banking and mutual funds;
       Tourism and travel-related services,
           including concessions in national and
           state parks;
       Transportation services;
       Telecommunications; and

In these sectors, the EU is asking the United States to
remove existing regulation of services by eliminating
state insurance chartering, lifting rules regulating
legal practice, or removing certain banking regulations
- and/or requesting "market access" in one or more of
the four "modes" of GATS. These include the right to
set-up an operation or commercial presence in the
United States, the right to provide cross-border
services (for instance, online mutual funds), the right
to send service workers into the United States to
perform a service contract made with a foreign company,
and the right to sell services to U.S. citizens abroad.
Once market access is granted, all levels of government
- city, county, state and federal - are forbidden from
limiting the number of service providers in these areas
and also must provide certain treatment to foreign
service providers.

For a background memo on the GATS and how it operates,
and to see the EU GATS demands, click here.

Tom Atlee * The Co-Intelligence Institute * PO Box 493 * Eugene, OR 97440
http://www.co-intelligence.org *  http://www.democracyinnovations.org


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