AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL FOR THE DEFENCE OF GOVERNMENT
SCHOOLS - D.O.G.S.
PRESS RELEASE 195#.
6 MARCH 2007
GATS AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL TRADE AGREEMENTS:
THREAT TO PUBLIC EDUCATION
DOGS and supporters of public education are indebted to the New South Wales Teachers Federation for alerting them to the potential threat of the GATS ( General Agreement on Trades in Services) and other international agreements to public education.
In an article in their journal Education February 26, 2007, page 10, Phil Bradley, Assistant General Secretary of Post School Education provided a report on the GATS agreement which was adopted by the World Trade Organization in 1994 and signed by the ALP Keating Government for Australia.
This agreement now includes provisions relating to education services by and for member nations. This includes Australia.
This means that Australia has made commitments in respect to secondary, vocational and higher education services. Any national and sub-national government rule or regulation that affects trade in services is subject to GATS and is open to a possible legal challenge from other WTO nation members who may claim they have been prevented from bidding to provide such services due to unfair national trade barriers. GATS restrictions, if breached, can result in WTO endorsed trade sanctions. Only government procurement is explicitly excluded from GATS. Such government services are, however, narrowly defined as " any service which is supplied neither on a commercial basis nor in competition with one or more service suppliers."
Since public education in Australia already involves considerable competition with private providers, especially in secondary schools and TAFE, this public provision is being increasingly exposed to potential threat under GATS and other international trade agreements.
The GATS agreement relates not only to eliminating so-called barriers to trade and investment, but also relates to the encouragement of domestic liberalisation by the use of privatisation, contracting out of public services and deregulation.
The DOGS have referred to the problem with the GATS in 2002 in Press Release 56 (www.adogs.info/pr56.htm ) and Press Release 58 ( www.adogs.info/pr58.htm). The problem posed by GATS has been on the back burner for the last few years, although the Federal Government and the Victorian State Government are introducing legislation and funding agreements indicating a determination to fulfill the opening up of the "Education" market to private religious and/or corporate enterprises.
The WTO's Doha Round of expanded trade negotiations was suspended in July 2006 due to a block of developing countries refusing to make further market access concessions to powerful countries like the United States, which in turn was refusing to make its own concessions, especially in regard to its agricultural export subsidies. There are however, continuing attempts to re-open WTO trade talks.
Other developments which could impose risks to public education through trade agreements include the proposed China-Australia Free Trade Agreement and the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation ( APEC) summit on September 7-9 this year.
This meeting involves leaders of some of the world's most powerful countries discussing economics and trade liberalisation with little if any consideration of human rights, labour rights and the environment. Civil society groups are currently planning an alternative APEC forum to express opposing points of view.
The recent visit to Australia for five whole days of the Vice President of the USA, Richard Cheney ( February 22-27) involved discussion "reinforcing the strong bilateral relationship between the US and Australia and consultation on major international issues such as regional security challenges, Afghanistan, Iraq and the war against terrorism. There is also great concern that the talks could include consideration of a possible attack on Iran.
Phil Bradley recommends the Australian fair Trade and Investment Network website on www.aftinet.org.au for further information.
The Australian Education Union, at their 2007 National TAFE Council Annual General Meeting and the 2007 AEU Federal Conference passed the following motion:
" GATS AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL TRADE AGREEMENTS ARE INCREASINGLY UNDERMINING PUBLIC EDUCATION. AN ISSUE OF IMMEDIATE CONCERN IS A PROPOSED NEW GATS DISCIPLINE ON LICENSING AND QUALIFICATION REQUIREMENTS FOR PROFESSIONS AND TRADES.
THE AEU IS TO INFORM ITS MEMBERS OF THIS THREAT TO PUBLIC EDUCATION AND LOBBY ALL MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES, SITTING INDEPENDENTS, STATE/TERRITORY GOVERNMENTS AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATIONS TO URGE THEM TO OPPOSE ANY PROPOSED INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS WHICH COULD RESULT IN THE PRIVATISATION OF PUBLIC SERVICES SUCH AS PUBLIC EDUCATION."
FOR MORE INFORMATION
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12.30 p.m. ON Saturdays.
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Ray Nilsen on
(03) 9326 9277 or (03) 9329 8483
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Melbourne Victoria Australia 3001
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|Last modified:Monday, 05 March 2007|