Stop WTO's Water Grabs: Act Now to Protect Local Democracy
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WATER & TRADE ACTION ALERT

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PRESERVE Local Authority to Protect Water Resources and Services

STOP the GATS Deregulation of Services before it is too late!

Negotiators for the World Trade Organization – the WTO - are currently drafting new rules that will allow national, state and local regulations to be challenged just because they might be considered too "burdensome" to corporations. Under these “domestic regulation” rules, local and national regulations protecting water and water services could become violations of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

Background: With its recent decision against the European moratorium on genetically modified organisms, the WTO has just proven it can undercut even the most widely supported regulations. WTO negotiators are now taking the provisions that have proven so successful in attacking regulations over goods and inserting them into the GATS. Depending on which proposal is ultimately adopted, regulations that are either "too burdensome," "not relevant," and/or "not reasonable" will become violations of these new GATS rules on domestic regulation. The fact that these regulations do not discriminate in any way against foreign service suppliers will be no defense. This is not about “fair trade,” it is about promoting corporate rights over people’s rights.

What is at stake

Domestic regulation covers qualification requirements and procedures, licensing requirements and procedures, and technical standards. These categories are being defined so broadly that there is no aspect of service regulation that would not be affected. Some examples are:

- If the conditions imposed on pumping water for bottled water production such as requiring sustainability studies were ruled to be "unnecessarily burdensome", this could be a violation of proposed GATS rules on technical standards;

- If municipalities did not give "prompt" approval to sewage treatment plants or water systems needed for development projects, this could also be a violation of proposed GATS rules on licensing procedures.

- If the standards for the treatment of wastewater were "unreasonable" or "unnecessarily burdensome," this could be a violation of proposed GATS rules on technical standards.

Some countries are saying that certain disciplines should be applied across-the-board, so all services including the provision of drinking water would automatically be covered. Other countries are suggesting the disciplines would "only" apply to sectors where commitments have been made. This would still mean that sectors as sensitive as construction and sewage disposal would be governed by the disciplines, because many countries, including the U.S., have already made commitments in these areas.

Negotiations of New Rules Are on a Fast Track!

According to the timeline set by the chair of the Working Party on Domestic Regulation, by the end of this year services regulation will be governed by new GATS restrictions:

· May 2, 2006 – Deadline for submission of proposals on new rules

· July 27, 2006 – First draft text.

· December, 2006 – Final text for adoption by WTO members.

“Water Out of GATS” campaign must demand a halt to negotiations on Domestic Regulation.

Remember: Water services are still definitely at risk in the GATS negotiations as long as negotiators are contemplating "across the board" disciplines on services regulation. Even if disciplines are "only" applied to committed services, that means the construction of water pipes, sewage services, and services like mining and forestry services that impact water will be under these disciplines in a wide range of countries.

Action by concerned citizens has succeeded in getting the European Union to withdraw its GATS negotiating demand that GATS rules cover “water for human use”. Now the campaign must be expanded to achieve a halt to the GATS negotiations on domestic regulation which can only result in intolerable limitations on local and national authority to regulate water services and protect water resources.

Take Action NOW!

Write to the key officials at the office of the US Trade Representative – USTR -- and cc your City Council members. Tell them that you do not want the WTO rules on GATS to trump local democratic authority to protect local water resources and to regulate the provision of water and sewer services. Use information from this flyer to be specific about your concerns. Follow up with phone calls to your City Council members. Ask them to get in touch with the USTR right away.

Write to:

Ambassador Robert Portman, US Trade Representative

Ambassador Susan C. Schwab, Deputy US Trade Representative

Christine Bliss, Acting Assistant US Trade Representative for Services and Investment

USTR

600 17th Street NW

Washington DC 20508

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