ALLIANCE FOR DEMOCRACY
Washington DC Office
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LEAKED EU TRADE DOCUMENTS CONFIRM U.S. PUBLIC SERVICES UNDER ATTACK
Despite frequent denials by European trade officials, they are targeting public services in the
current round of services negotiations. The Alliance for Democracy has received leaked official
European Commission (EC) documents confirming that the U.S. Postal Service and municipal
water/sewer systems are on the negotiating table. The EC even wants their businesses to be
eligible for federal small business administration loans now restricted to U.S. citizens.
The documents, being made public today by the Polaris Institute of Canada, are available at
http://www.polarisinstitute.org They reveal that the EC has requested that the United States
adopt favorable trade rules to help open its federal postal system and municipal water/sewer
systems to competition by European corporations.
"From the mail we receive to the water we drink, the European requests show that our basic
public services are under threat," observed Ruth Caplan, coordinator of the Alliance for
Democracy's trade campaign. "European corporations want global trade rules so they can profit
each time we drink a glass of water or send a letter to Grandma."
The negotiations are taking place to expand the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS),
one of the agreements under the authority of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO
deadline for initial offers in response to the requests is March 31, 2003.
Each restricted document states: "Member States are requested to ensure that this text is not
made publicly available and is treated as a restricted document." The public was never
supposed to know what public services were being traded away in secret bilateral negotiations
among the 145 WTO member countries until all the deals had been cut.
"Our municipal water/sewer systems are under a GATS attack and local officials have not even
been told. Secret negotiations about the public's right to water is not how democracy should
work," Caplan stated.
"It is time for United States to make its requests and offers public," Caplan declared. "The
public needs to know whether the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) headed by
Robert Zoellick will protect essential public services or trade them away in response to the
European requests. The Alliance calls on USTR to make public all its requests to other countries
immediately and to make its offers public as soon as they are made." To date only unsatisfactory
general summaries of the requests have been released.
The EC is specifically requesting that its corporations be given market access for "Water
collection, purification and distribution services through mains" within United States'
boundaries. This classification under "Water for Human Use & Wastewater Management" has
been created by the EC.
Where the U.S.had previously agreed to opening up waste water services for private industry,
the EC wants public services opened up as well.
"The EC pats itself on the back for fully defending its own public services by not making any
commitments on education and health services, but goes ahead with asking that the United States
and developing countries open up their publicly-owned municipal water/sewer systems. They
are simply doing the bidding of Vivendi, Suez and RWE/Thames, the giant European corporations
which want access to water service markets," according to Caplan. "This is a lucrative market
for EC corporations since about 80% of local water/sewer systems are still in public hands."
The track record of Vivendi, Suez and Thames has not been good. Atlanta just terminated its
contract with Suez subsidiary United Water due to poor performance. Vivendi has performed
very poorly in Great Britain, Puerto Rico and Argentina. Thames' environmental record in
Great Britain includes 233 pollution incidents and 8 prosecutions in 1999 alone, according to
research by Public Services International.
GATS locks in commitments made to open up specific services to foreign competition, so once the
U.S. commits to including water/sewer services or the USPS, they will not be able to back out.
For more information, contact
Ruth Caplan, 202-244-0561