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The US Must Be VERY Careful Because Triggering GATS is Irreversible, Destroying Public Healthcare Forever

Description By Nick Skala
"Critics of the WTO recognized early on that GATS rules held the potential to infringe on the ability of governments to regulate committed services in the public interest, but trade officials assured them that such fears were unfounded.   A May 2005 letter from the U.S. Trade Representative to state officials reiterated the top trade official's promises that the GATS did not pose a threat to their regulatory prerogatives, repeating eight times the Representative's view that "nothing in the GATS impedes the ability of a state to maintain or develop regulatory requirements as appropriate to each jurisdiction"

"This view has been severely undermined, however, by a pair of WTO tribunal rulings that demonstrate that the entities charged with interpreting GATS rules may hold them to extend to greater reaches than even the nations most supportive of services liberalization had intended. On March 13, 2003, the Caribbean island nation of Antigua alleged that U.S. law violated the GATS by operating to prohibit the cross-border supply of Internet gambling and betting services to the U.S. territory. "

 "Lacking many kinds of traditional resources, Antigua had made the establishment of Internet- based gambling operations a central part of its economic development strategy; indeed, Antiguan lawyers submitted evidence to the WTO that, in 1999, Internet gambling revenue accounted for 10 percent of the nation's gross domestic product"

 The rest of the events unfolded in a surreal series of events that illustrates the incredible naivete of the US Trade Representatives and the Lawyers who represented the United States, who attempted to maintain that the United States had the "right" to control online gambling despite its WTO commitments, which we had not been aware we were triggering, but did..

 We lost the case, and negotiations to set compensation for lost potential business, which may end up reaching into billions of dollars, - or unspeakable censored are ongoing.  That is barely the start of it. This case opened up a hornets nest of questions, for which there are no easy answers. Until these issues are resolved, WE ABSOLUTELY MUST NOT TRIGGER GATS ON HEALTH CARE AND DESTROY OUR CHANCES FOR AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE USING PUBLIC PLANS FOREVER.

This is from Global Trade Watch:


Originally posted to Andiamo on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 04:11 AM PDT.


Should We Ignore The Lessons From Antigua's Online Gambling Case As They Pertain To GATS and Healthcare?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    relentless, J M F

    The NAFTA-like GATS and its ratchet effect is an potential minefield for public health care! It is SO important that EVERY Democrat needs to read up on it, NOW!

    by Andiamo on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 04:22:46 AM PDT

    •  Get Rid Of GATS (0+ / 0-)

      And the WTO and any other phony 'trade' agreements that are one-way streets for corporations.


      •  I don't think the current administration (0+ / 0-)
        would want that as the WTO is in many ways an instrument set up by the multinationals and the rich nations that they originated from (like ourselves) that is used to further their goal of making lots of money.

        Their value system sees anything that restrains trade as a threat, it certainly sees public healthcare in part as an opportunity for profit as well, as long as that public healthcare is completely privatized, each corporate presence adds a buffer of private profit to each stage, making the healthcare itself markedly lower in quality, but also employing more people in administration (although that is changing quickly as soon machines will handle things like negotiating between HMOs and providers for payment- so called "agent based systems" will be handling decisionmaking- its inevitable.

        Human labor is increasingly seen as too expensive.

        The NAFTA-like GATS and its ratchet effect is an potential minefield for public health care! It is SO important that EVERY Democrat needs to read up on it, NOW!

        by Andiamo on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 08:15:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I am not sure I know what you know (0+ / 0-)

    I spent the last twenty minutes trying to learn  about GATS.

    Wilkepedia has a good piece about GATS  (The General Agreement on Trade in Services). GATS is a treaty of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The treaty was created to extend the multilateral
    merchandise trade trading system
    to the service sector.

    Upon accession, Members may introduce temporary exemptions to this rule.

    GATS tends to undermine the authority of a national legislation and judiciary with a GATS Disputes Panel that makes decisions behind closed doors.

    While national governments have an option to exclude any specific service under the GATS, they are also under international pressure, from business interests, to refrain from excluding any service "provided on a commercial basis".

    Public utilities including water and electricity supply most commonly involve purchase by consumers and are thus demonstrably "provided on a commercial basis".

    Many health and education services are sought to be 'exported' by some countries as profitable industries because they are "provided on a commercial basis".

    So this is what is behind the weirdness of our politicians?  The ordinary American doesn't want any other country telling us what to do.

    We have to do what we can to make sure that this doesn't make the rich richer while the rest of us are exploited, STARTING with health care.  

    We didn't say Wealth Care, we said Health Care.

    by relentless on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 06:07:25 AM PDT

    •  Did you realize that GATS ratchet effect is (0+ / 0-)
      irreversible, or that once triggered, we have to allow all multinationals equal access to the market, making single payer (a monopoly provider) impossible? Or that once triggered, its irreversible, or you have to compensate existing players with payments based on lost potential sales, not actual sales? Did you realize that all the developed nations with public health plans see it as a potential threat to them if handled with carelessness (which we clearly are doing) I think that politicians of both parties are sick of hearing the public bugging them for affordable health care and they want to 'solve' this problem (from their perspective), once and for all, by ending its possibility. That's the ONLY explanation for the perplexing lack of discussion in the US on this issue.

      Contrast that silence with this publication from Canada, for example.

      Twenty minutes...

      enforcement of U.S. anti-racketeering laws had cut the number of licensed Antiguan gambling service operators from 119 to 28. Antigua claimed that a combination of more than 100 federal and state statutes, judicial opinions, and administrative actions together constituted a "total pro- hibition" on cross-border gambling and betting services, in violation of GATS market access rules prohibiting limitations on the number of service suppliers or service operations in sectors in which commitments have been undertaken. A surprised United States argued in response that it had not intended to commit gambling and betting services to GATS jurisdiction when it placed "Other Recreational Services (except sporting)" on its schedule of commitments and that Antigua was misinterpreting the United States' schedule (8). Alter- natively, the United States argued, its anti-gambling laws were valid under GATS clauses exempting laws from the treaty's normal rules if they are "necessary to International Trade Law and U.S. Health Reform / 369 À; protect the public morals or to maintain public order" or "necessary to . . . the prevention of deceptive and fraudulent practices" (8). The WTO Dispute Settlement Body panel ruled against the United States on both its defenses (8, p. 271). The Panel held that, regardless of whether the United States had intended to or not, it had committed gambling services to its schedule under normal rules of treaty interpretation. It further held that the United States had failed to demonstrate that the anti-gambling laws were "necessary" to protect public morals or to prevent deception and fraud, because it had not "exhausted" all opportunities to explore measures that were more amenable to international trade, and that the United States could not defend its laws from GATS rules, because they discriminated against international trade by allowing for the provision of domestic online betting on horse races. After dismissing the U.S. defenses, the Panel ruled that three U.S. federal laws (the Wire Act, the Travel Act, and the Illegal Gambling Business Act) and similar state laws in South Dakota, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Utah violated the GATS market access rules, and held that they should be "brought into conformity" with the GATS (i.e., substantially modified or repealed). Significantly, the Panel held that because it had already found that the U.S. laws violated the GATS market access provisions, it would not rule on other claims made by Antigua, including alleged violations of GATS national treatment and payments and transfer restriction provisions. A third claim of a U.S. violation of GATS domestic regulation provisions was dismissed only because Antigua had not submitted a sufficient claim. On appeal, the United States argued (somewhat ironically, considering that it was perhaps the most adamant proponent of services liberalization) that the Panel's ruling "unreasonably and absurdly deprives [nations] of a significant component of their right to regulate services by depriving them of the power to prohibit selected activities" (9). These protests notwithstanding, the WTO Appellate Body (the highest "court" of the WTO) upheld the Panel's ruling (albeit on modified reasoning) that the United States had committed gambling services to GATS and that the federal laws violated its GATS commitments, holding that a prohibition on gambling constitutes an impermissible "zero quota" on the number of allowed service providers or operations. It overturned the Panel's finding, however, that the U.S. laws were not "necessary" to protect morals or against fraud, but upheld its conclusion that the U.S. gambling laws were discriminatory and held that, as a result, the "necessity" defense could not be invoked. The Panel's ultimate conclusion that the U.S. law violated the GATS was affirmed (9, p. 123). Negotiations on compensation by the United States are ongoing. Several unsettling conclusions can be drawn from the U.S. -Gambling case. First, domestic statutes and regulations, even criminal ones, can be found to be violations of the GATS in sectors in which specific commitments have been undertaken, and probably also in those in which no commitments have been 370 / Skala À; undertaken (as in the general prohibition on new monopolies). Second, in sectors in which commitments are undertaken, foreign service suppliers must be granted market access even if domestic suppliers are prohibited from doing so, unless the prohibition can be shown to be "necessary" to protect public order or against fraud. Third, the GATS treaty and schedules are written with such ambiguity that trade experts are not even aware of what they have committed to GATS jurisdiction. The U.S. -Gambling case raises concerns that other broadly worded commitments may be subject to undesired interpretations. Finally, the Dispute Settlement and Appellate Bodies have demonstrated that they are willing to give extreme and unanticipated interpretations to the GATS rules. Few would consider a criminal anti-gambling law a "limitation on the total number of service operations," indistinguishable from a trade quota. But the WTO adjudicatory system has demonstrated a willingness to view public protections in exactly this way and to rule against them where they inhibit commerce. What are the potential implications of the relevant WTO rules and juris- prudence for the U.S. health sector

      The NAFTA-like GATS and its ratchet effect is an potential minefield for public health care! It is SO important that EVERY Democrat needs to read up on it, NOW!

      by Andiamo on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 06:20:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Bush Abrogated Treaties (0+ / 0-)

        Why can't Obama?

        And if he can't or won't, we should find somebody who will look out for the American people's interests first.


        •  Did you read how we have to let foreign (0+ / 0-)
          companies manage LNG terminals (i.e. "like small atomic bombs") in compensation?

          Compensating multinationals for "potential lost profits" is very expensive.

          Ignore me, but you can't ignore experts like A. Pollock from the UK, who have been saying for decades that GATS represents the biggest threat to quality public healthcare that the world has ever seen.

          If you don't listen to me, listen to her! The US doesn't live in a vacumn. We can't ignore treaties we ourselves drafted (perhaps thinking we could "game" them. Maybe then, but now, we are in debt up to our eyeballs, and we can't.)

          Enjoy your ignorance, its blissful, isn't it?

          The NAFTA-like GATS and its ratchet effect is an potential minefield for public health care! It is SO important that EVERY Democrat needs to read up on it, NOW!

          by Andiamo on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 07:40:59 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Yes, twenty minutes. (0+ / 0-)

    Twenty minutes is a long time to spend reading up on something like GATS.  I understand it 'a little'.

    Most people, including me, do not have time to get too deep into confusing subjects. I admire the way you are trying to get the GATS health care message across to us.

    It is overwhelming to me to read your long paragraph.  I started over 3 times. Don't take this wrong, I am on your side.  You need to break it down into shorter, clearer paragraphs, if you want most to understand where you are coming from. You have a good point.

    Do the internationals in this country want to destroy this country or undermine it in order to further their international organizations?

    We didn't say Wealth Care, we said Health Care.

    by relentless on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 06:56:11 AM PDT

    •  I think its a matter of profit, tit for tat (0+ / 0-)
      The US corporations seem to like to sue the governments of other nations to "insure a level playing field" for their goods, which often means that rules like safety regulations are ignored "for the goal of free trade", for example, we recently sued South Korea for pursuing policies to lower the prices of drugs that many US states use, despite the US states protests to the US Trade Representative. Obviously, the US government takes a view that the WTO regulations help US companies gain access to foreign, profitable markets. They aren't going to give that up.

      Many politicians are tired of the people bothering them, like gnats, about affordable health care. Offshoring health care would provide a way to export them, as well. Some islands in the Pacific are slowly being covered by rising sea water. In the intirim, they have set up profitable businesses warehousing "economic refugees" who attempt to sail in small, unseaworthy boats to countries like Australia from starving places like Burma and Iraq. (Its the Asian/Pacific equivalent of Haiti, here) The island nations like Nauru handle them for a low monthly fee, thousands of miles from Australian shores, in the middle of shark infested waters. Its a profitable business and a major source of foreign exchange for Nauru, (whose guano reserves are almost exhausted.)

      I know that a lot of American companies are looking at telemedicine as a way to allow Americans get affordable healthcare, without their having to pay high US wages. They can use a high speed Internet linkup to connect patients, in real time, with doctors anywhere in the world, and pocket a hefty profit. The only thing standing in their way is regulations. Thats where the WTO comes in, they can strike down regulations as being an illegal barrier to trade.

      We recently sued Canada under WTO rules for restricting the sales of some asbestos-laden products - saying that it was an illegal restraint of trade. Their safety regulations, the US argued, violated our rights to -censored- "sell" our  products there.

      "Its complicated" I suppose.

      The NAFTA-like GATS and its ratchet effect is an potential minefield for public health care! It is SO important that EVERY Democrat needs to read up on it, NOW!

      by Andiamo on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 08:03:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  And STILL Frank's & McDermott's bills... (0+ / 0-)

    aren't passed..

    All US has to do is regulate what millions of Americans are doing now, and McDermott's bill allows taxing and.. Shocking.. Revenue raising..

  •  Thanks for all the hard work! (0+ / 0-)

    I'm still reviewing the links you gave in my Diary's scaring the hell out of me...we're toast!

    And all the while our Politicians and Insurance Companies are laughing all the way to the bank...

    I'm reviewing the process of becoming a Sovereign Citizen...this will be the only way I can avoid perpetual poverty, legally mandated...

    •  I don't follow you (0+ / 0-)
      This is our country, more than it is the banks, or whoever's.

      Its our responsibility to fix it. Like our planet, its the only one we've got. We also deserve honesty from politicians. I remember reading back in 1994 that we had signed international trade agreements that would eventually lead to privatizing Medicare and Social Security, but after that, that was the last I heard about it. Now, not a peep, anywhere.  That's a very strange, unnatural situation.

      But, this is an issue over which there are large demonstrations elsewhere. Look at the huge demonstrations on Bush era trade policy and drug pricing (a still unchanged US position)  in South Korea, for example.

      I'm sure that kind of stance with others, basically ties our hands domestically as well.

      Obama was a teacher, why doesn't he explain this, instead of having endless closed door meetings with PhRMA, etc, and never explaining WHY we must seemingly forever pay these high prices.

      The NAFTA-like GATS and its ratchet effect is an potential minefield for public health care! It is SO important that EVERY Democrat needs to read up on it, NOW!

      by Andiamo on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 11:31:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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