Thanks Benny. I can only forward this. I am not an
organisation and there are other issues. I do support
making Parliament take responsibility for GATS and
requested the Ministry in this regard as a matter of
RTI on 08.11.05 after its last press release:
http://mail.architexturez.net/+/MPISG-Media/archive/msg00662.shtml
regards, gita

--- Benny Kuruvilla <[email protected]> wrote:


PLEASE FORWARD:

Dear Friends,

Please find below an open letter to Indian MPs
highlighting concerns on the
current services negotiations in the WTO. The GATS
is one of the 3
contentious areas in the negotiations alongwith
Agriculture and industrial
tariffs. But unlike the latter two, India claims to
have ‘aggressive’ market
access interests in GATS. We have highlighted the
problem with this approach
and, as well as, other broader issues.

This letter was initiated as part of a campaign in
Maharastra on ‘Defending
the services sector’. The unions and groups part of
this process can be
found in the present list of signatories.

The letter will be submitted to all MPs before the
winter session of the
Indian Parliament

Please write to [email protected]
<mailto:[email protected]>  if your
organisation is willing to endorse this letter.
Please note that this is an
organisational sign on and is intended only for
Indian groups.

Thank you.

Benny Kuruvilla
(Focus on the Global South -India)

 

 

SUBJECT: WTO: CALL FOR A STANDSTILL IN GATS
NEGOTIATIONS
15 November 2005

Dear Member of Parliament,
From 13-18 December 2005, Trade Ministers will meet
in Hong Kong to decide
the future course of global negotiations in the
World Trade Organisation
(WTO).
The undersigned social movements, trade unions and
civil society
organisations are writing to all members of the
Indian Parliament with
several urgent concerns on substantive issues with
regard to India’s current
position in one of the key negotiating areas: the
WTO’s General Agreement on
Trade in Services (GATS).
1.         Undermining National Well-Being and
Welfare
Over 160 services sectors are in the offing for
liberalisation under the
GATS and it seems clear that the Ministry of
Commerce is not sufficiently
equipped to understand the complex economic, social
and environmental
implications of bringing these sectors into the WTO
framework.
It is crucial that lessons from already existing
liberalisation and
privatisation attempts inform India’s negotiating
position in the GATS. This
assessment is yet to be done by the Indian
Government. Opening up the
services sector through the GATS without adequate
assessment of the impacts
of liberalisation and privatisation on national
employment, livelihoods,
equity and welfare is likely to result in far
reaching negative impacts to a
broad cross-section of people, particularly those in
the low-income brackets
and situated in rural areas.
2.         Undermining Policy Sovereignty
India’s GATS commitments will seriously compromise
India’s policy
sovereignty, and render the Indian state powerless
to introduce new
regulations, and to penalise foreign services
providers for high costs, poor
quality and inadequate access to services by Indian
consumers.
Bound commitments under the GATS will limit the
ability of the central and
state governments to enact and enforce domestic
regulations in the public
interest relating to licensing, technical standards
and qualification
requirements. GATS clauses of market access and
non-discrimination to
foreign services providers will weaken the power of
government to supply
essential services to vulnerable sections of society
through
cross-subsidisation. They will also restrict the
government’s ability to
further develop capacity in the Indian services
sector through public
procurement of goods & services.
3.         Who is driving the Negotiating Agenda?
An examination of present negotiations shows that
the aggressive market
access demands from developed country WTO members
will not be beneficial to
developing country members. Groups such as the EU
are demanding aggressive
liberalisation in Mode 3 (Foreign Direct Investment)
and are calling for
restrictions on foreign ownership to be removed.
Making binding commitments
under Mode 3 will seriously undermine the ability of
governments to regulate
foreign investment in the services sector.
Also questionable are the gains that India hopes to
get from liberalisation
through the Mode 4 route (temporary movement of
labour). One of India’s key
demands is that the US increase the quota of H-1B
visas from its present
GATS commitment of 65,000 to about 100,000. This
mirrors the demands of big
services corporations in the US. India has narrowed
Mode 4 negotiations to
the movement of highly skilled professionals and
does not take into account
unskilled or lower skilled workers. It is indeed
unfortunate that India’s
Mode 4 positions are ‘captured’ by business lobbies.
4.         Breaking Ranks Outside and Within
India was at the forefront of resistance by
developing countries in the Doha
(2001) and Cancun (2003) Ministerial Meetings to
attempts by rich WTO
members to introduce investment into the WTO.
However, it appears that India
is now no longer interested in maintaining
collective positions with other
developing countries to resist pressures by
developed countries for the
indiscriminate liberalisation of services. India has
joined a select core
group that is now driving the negotiations in the
direction of
 “benchmarking” or “complementary approaches.”
5.         The Urgent Need for Parliamentary
Scrutiny
Larger public interest cannot be traded away to
maintain the myth of
multilateralism through India’s commitments in the
WTO, or to benefit a
handful of domestic commercial enterprises that seek
to expand their
business opportunities to other countries. We must
bear in mind that
commitments under the WTO are irreversible and that
policy actions have far
reaching impacts, some of which may not be visible
in the short term.
Allowing water, energy, credit and banking to come
under a weak regulatory
environment that is biased towards corporate control
will further undermine
the productive capacities of India’s communities,
workers and farmers
(majority of Indian farmers are subsistence oriented
peasant producers).
Access to affordable services is crucial to building
strong, healthy and
productive societies. To defend the integrity of the
services sector is to
defend life.
Though able and intelligent, trade officials in the
Commerce Ministry are
not the best judges of ground level impacts of
possible liberalisation
commitments. Substantive consultations with regional
and local governments,
policy makers in critical sectors such as health,
education, water and
sanitation, environment, financial services, labour
and social welfare, and
with a broad cross section of civil
society--including workers, unions,
farmers, fisher-folk groups, women’s organisations
and urban poor groups--is
absolutely critical to fill these knowledge gaps.
But to date, the few
attempts by the Ministry of Commerce to engage in
such discussions have been
restricted to an extremely narrow base of
constituencies and biased towards
pro-GATS lobbies, while apprehensions voiced by
those who would be most
negatively affected by GATS commitments are not
reflected in the Ministry’s
positions.
Given this situation we urge you as an elected
representative of the people
of India to:
1.        Call for an immediate halt on negotiations on
services liberalisation
under the GATS.
2.        Unequivocally oppose all proposals for
“benchmarking” or “complementary
approaches” to services liberalisation.
3.        Reject Mode 4 concessions as an incentive to open
up India’s services
sectors to liberalisation. Mode 4 does not promise
any relief for the
unemployment problem in India, since the EU, US and
other rich countries
will likely liberalize entry only for the most
highly skilled professionals
from India and other developing countries, thus
worsening brain drain.
4.        Demand that an inter-sectoral team appointed by
the Indian Parliament
conduct a comprehensive assessment of the impact of
past liberalisation and
privatisation of services.
5.        Ensure that the Indian Governments position
towards Hong Kong is
comprehensively debated and decided in the
Parliament
Services are, in one sense, the backbone of our
societies and economies.
Every aspect of our lives, from education, health,
environment and
transportation to energy, water, food, hotels and
finance, are dependent on
services. We cannot let these be taken out of
democratic control and into
the hands of a few Commerce Ministry bureaucrats to
be signed away as
trade-offs in the WTO.
This time around, the people of India refuse to be
confronted with a “fait
accompli” as in India’s previous WTO commitments.
India’s citizens will
challenge any commitment made without due democratic
processes.
We appeal to parliamentarians to call for a complete
standstill in GATS
negotiations until the above issues are
appropriately addressed.


SIGNATORIES AS OF NOVEMBER 9 2005


1)       All India Bank Officers Association,
2)       All India Bank Employees Association
3)       All India LIC Employees Federation
4)       All India Port and Dock Workers Federation
(Workers)
5)       Centre for Organisation Research and
Education, Manipur
6)       EQUATIONS – Equitable Tourism Options,
Bangalore
7)       General Insurance Employees All India
Association
8)       Focus on the Global South, Mumbai
9)       Hind Mazdoor Sabha
10)   INFAM - Indian Farmers Movement, Kerala
11)   Maharastra State Government Employees
Confederation,
12)   Maharastra State Zilla Parishad Employees
Confederation
13)   National Union of Seafarers of India
14)   NCOA - National Confederation of Officers
Associations of Central
Public Sector Undertakings, New Delhi
15)   Open Space, Bangalore
16)   Samatha, Hyderabad
17)   Vikas Adhyan Kendra
18)   YUVA

=====================================================================

Benny Kuruvilla
Focus on the Global South - India
A-201, Kailash Apartments
Juhu Church Road
Juhu , Mumbai - 400049
India

Tel:91.22.55821141/55821151
Tel Fax:91.22. 26251347

Email    : [email protected]
Website: http://www.focusweb.org

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