A march, rally and street festival, featuring the ‘GATS Monster’ (a 30ft Chinese-style Dragon) will be held in Oxford this coming Saturday, whilst the WTO is meeting. This will begin at 11am, leaving from Manzil Way, East Oxford, and marching to Broad Street in the centre of town. There will also be street theatre, music and stalls.
John Tanner, Oxford City Labour Councillor, will launch the campaign this week about the far-reaching effects of the World Trade Organisation on communities throughout the world, including Oxford. The WTO meets in Cancun, Mexico this week, the outcome of which could threaten local services in Oxford. Cllr Tanner attacked Cllr Mitchell’s recent comments (Ox Times, 29th August) and said “I am sure most people in Oxford care about developing countries and don’t agree with Cllr Mitchell.”
The campaign is backed by Barry Coates, Director of the World Development Movement, Tom Lines, adviser to Oxfam on the Common Agricultural Policy, and local trade unionist John Lister, director of pressure group London Health Emergency.
Barry Coates warns “GATS will force the British government and local council in Oxford to regulate the provision of services to privatise public services. 160 sectors are up for negotiation in Mexico this week, from health and education, water, waste collection to banking and tourism. You imagine it and it is probably up for sale.” “Furthermore, neither the EU nor the UK government will disclose which services they want to put up for ‘sale’, negotiations are conducted in secret and the UK government won’t even inform Parliament of the details and allow a parliamentary debate.”
John Lister says the WTO intends to open up the $3 trillion global health care market, and connects GATS with the British government's efforts to introduce the private sector to the health service. Controversial local examples in Oxford include the Private Finance Initiative, Diagnostic and Treatment Centres, and proposals for Foundation Hospitals. "GATS is about opening up publicly-owned and financed health services in Europe to competition from multinational healthcare corporations. What starts as a public-private partnership, like PFI or DTCs, or even Foundation Hospitals, is likely to end up in full-blown privatisation under GATS."
Tom Lines comments that “in the developing world, subsidised produce is sold at prices below the cost of production, and then, when the local agriculture has been destroyed and competition has been wiped out, prices go up again. This condemns poor countries to perpetual dependency on foreign aid as we don't allow them to develop their own economy. And then, at the WTO, we link aid to their acceptance of even more unfair trade rules, so that their options are either to starve or to sign agreements that go directly against the interests of their own people.”
Trade Justice campaigners are calling for the WTO to:
Stop forcing poor countries to open their markets; and instead to champion poor countries' right to manage their own economies
Regulate big business and their investments to ensure people and the environment come before profits
Stop rich countries promoting the interests of big business through trade interventions that harm the poor and the environment
Insist that the World Trade Organisation's remit is not expanded to include new issues of investment, competition policy, transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation
Ensure trade policy is made in a fair, transparent and democratic way
Events organized by Oxford for Trade Justice during September aim to highlight the effects of ‘free trade’ and provide a forum for debate about the effect WTO negotiations will have both on developing countries and within the UK. Cllr Tanner expressed hope that Cllr Mitchell would come along to the other meetings organized by the Oxford for Trade Justice group and hear the issues that are being discussed.
Oxford for Trade Justice are holding several talks thoughout September relating to migration and displacement, the environment and worker's rights, on 10th, 18th and 25th. For further information, go to the Oxford for Trade Justice website, www.yvs.eu.com/otj.
For further information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note to the Editors - The Oxford for Trade Justice coalition includes: Oxfam, Friends of the Earth, Christian Concern for One World, Oxford Quakers, the Campaign to Close Campsfield, Brazil Solidarity, Peru Support, the Fairtrade Coalition, Christian Aid, the Oxford World Development Movement Group, the West Papua Rights Campaign, Globalise Resistance, Oxfordshire Green Party, Amicus-MSF (Oxford General & Publishing Branch), Unison and the Trades Council.