Possible impact of the GATS on national broadcasters

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Has anyone seen or heard any discussion of any possible impact on national broadcasters (ABC, CBC, BBC etc.) from the implementation of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) at the WTO?

I am a passionate supporter of the ABC (and FABC(WA) member), and a keen student and opponent of the GATS, but admit that I've not seen any mention of the topic or (amazingly) made the connection myself until now.

To explain briefly, the GATS is intended to remove all restrictions on (foreign) investment in signatory countries (we are one). Government "subsidies" of services which compete with private organisations providing the same service, or which are provided on a commercial basis, are deemed under the GATS to be unfair to potential investors. This poses a serious threat to many services until now provided wholly or in part by national, state or local governments. Much discussion continues over its effects on Health, Postal services, water supply and Education, to name some high profile ones. The federal government denies any risk to these services, but the wording of the agreement is at best open to another interpretation. Many fear all such services will be forced into private hands by GATS. Could the same be true of national broadcasters?

Tony Troughton-Smith Glen Forrest W.A. 6071

-- Anonymous, July 02, 2002



In response to your query, here is this piece of information from Dale Wiehoff from the U.S. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. It is in relation the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), not GATS, but it gives some idea of how publically funded instrumentalities may come under threat under amendments to the GATS agreement.

I understand the threat to publically funded broadcasting in Australia is not immediate. However, the public has a right to be fully informed about what stage the international GATS negotiations are at and what are the possible implications for all things publically funded.

"United Parcel Service (UPS) a giant USA Courier company is suing the government of giant Canada for $250 million. UPS is suing Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA),which lets corporations sue Ottawa if they feel government support for public institutions is hurting their business. UPS says public support for Canada Post is hurting UPS's effort to expand its courier business. If UPS wins its case, all our public services are under threat. Private broadcasters could sue Ottawa because it supports the CBC. Private hospitals could sue Ottawa because it supports public hospitals. Private schools could sue Ottawa because it supports public education. Please don't let UPS win its case against Canada. To stop corporations from suing the government of Canada under NAFTA, the Council Of Canadians has launched a court challenge. There is some good news: UPS just lost a legal case against Germany's post office, a sign that courts are now willing to protect public institutions against private companies. And in Ontario, a superior court judge recently ruled that the province's public electricity grid cannot be sold to private investors under current legislation. But even with these hopeful signs, beating UPS and other corporations will be extremely tough."

Dale Wiehoff Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy 2105 1st Avenue South Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404 USA tel. 612-870-3401 fax. 612-870-4846 email dwiehoff@iatp.org http://www.iatp.org

-- Anonymous, July 05, 2002

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