Stop the Secret Deals: GATS Requests Letter
noimage Note to Activists: This letter is for your local and state legislators to sign. When they sign the letter, please send a copy to Ruth Caplan, Alliance for Democracy, Washington DC Office, 3407 34th Place NW, Washington DC 20016. We will keep the letter updated by listing those who have signed on this site. We would like to collect as many signatures as possible by the June 30 deadline for the initial requests.


Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle
Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert
Senator Max Baucus, Chair Senate Finance Committee
Representative Bill Thomas, Chair Committee on Ways and Means
Senator Paul Sarbanes, Chair Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Economic Policy, Export and Trade Promotion
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chair International Relations Subcommittee on International Economic Policy and Trade

Dear Senator Daschle, Speaker Hastert, Senator Baucus, Representative Thomas, Senator Sarbanes, and Representative Ros-Lehtinen,

NO SECRET TRADE DEALS ON SERVICES

While Congress is considering Trade Promotion Authority (Fast Track) legislation to grant the administration greater authority over negotiating trade agreements, the administration has decided to withhold critical information from the public, including from local and state officials, which could potentially impact our local authority. As state and local officials from across the country, we wish to explain why this is unacceptable.

We understand that the Fourth Ministerial Declaration adopted at the WTO meeting in Doha this past November set a deadline of June 30, 2002, for initial requests from member countries that specific services in other countries be opened to foreign competition. We further understand that the request/offer process is a key element of the negotiations to expand the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) which were initiated in February 2000.

It is our firm position that this process must take place with full transparency with regard to local and state officials and the general public. The USTR has indicated that these are negotiating documents and therefore access will be limited to authorized advisory committees. We respectfully inform you that this is not acceptable to us.

First, as elected state and local officials, GATS impacts our work and our constituents directly since it covers "measures taken by central, regional or local governments and authorities" and applies to all measures affecting trade in services. The exception in GATS for services supplied in the exercise of government authority if they are provided "neither on a commercial basis nor in competition with one or more service suppliers" is virtually meaningless since almost all government services in the U.S. are "in competition with one or more service suppliers" such as private schools or hospitals.

We have a clear need to know what requests are being made of the United States since such requests can potentially effect our constituents and our authority. We believe that local officials and citizens in other member countries have a similar right to know what requests are being made by the United States. When the bilateral request/offer process has been completed and a complex set of trade offs are in place, there will be little opportunity to have local and state concerns heard. Yet through the application of the Most Favored Nation rule, these bilateral deals to open up services will be extended to all WTO member countries, creating the potential for far greater impact on our authority.

Are requests being made that the United States open up its schools to foreign competition? Its pubic clinics and hospitals? Its prisons? Its postal system? Its public transportation system?

Are requests being made which could impact local or state regulations pertaining to the qualification of nurses, doctors, therapists and/or other professionals which are seen as limiting foreign entrance?

Are requests being made regarding zoning and hours of operation for stores?

These are just a few examples of requests which could impact the local right to regulate the provision of services. It is essential that we be able to evaluate all requests from this perspective and therefore that all requests be made public.

We wish to point out that 75 percent of the economy is now in the service sector and many services are regulated or provided by state and local government. For example: water treatment and distribution, waste disposal, zoning and other land use controls, health insurance, health facilities, schools, construction, alcoholic beverage sales, municipal and state energy authorities, procurement preferences.

In Congress, the legislative process is a public process with legislative hearings and mark-ups subject to the Sunshine Law. It is our position that the requests made and received by our government to open up specific services for foreign competition should be equally open to public scrutiny. It is not acceptable to have the USTR treat these requests as negotiating documents which may be kept from public view.

We request your assistance in assuring that the USTR make public the "requests" and subsequent "offers" under GATS at the time they are received as a necessary step in preserving the authority of state and local officials to regulate local services.

Yours truly,

CC:

Ambassador Robert Zoellick, United States Trade Representative
National Conference of State Legislatures
National Conference of Mayors
National Association of Attorneys General


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