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QUEBEC CITYPublic Services International, a world-wide union federation that represents 20 million public service workers in 154 countries around the world, today released a report which calls for any negotiations for a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) to respect core workers rights, to allow scope for legitimate national development policies, and to exclude health, education and all other services provided for a public purpose.

The report, endorsed by PSI Canadian affiliates CUPE, NUPGE, PSAC and SEIU, as well as many public sector trade unions throughout the Americas, describes the features of the FTAA agreement, and how giant multinational corporations are pushing for further liberalization in services trade negotiations. It also discusses the potential for the Mercosur trade bloc and the proposed South American Free Trade Area to establish an alternative approach.

Trade agreements must include enforceable protections for workers rights and the environment, said PSI General Secretary Hans Engelberts. The rampage of free trade deals must not undermine public services or public health, nor allow individual investors to challenge state laws in secret, as the FTAA negotiators are planning.

In order to develop, countries must be allowed to regulate financial speculation and must have access to generous debt relief and development aid, said Magaly Brito, a leader of the public employee union SEPA in Aruba and a member of the PSI delegation participating in the Peoples Summit in Quebec City. Unfortunately, she said, everything we know about the FTAA tells us it does not meet any of these requirements. Instead, it just repeats the mistakes of the past.

PSI joins with our brothers and sisters of the hemisphere in demanding an end to the secrecy and exclusivity of the FTAA negotiations, said Ral002000640065 la Puente, President of the Chilean public service union ANEF, a PSI affiliate, and a delegation member. We join their call for a rejection of the current FTAA and for a new direction in the negotiations away from the failed NAFTA model of corporate privilege and towards a new hemispheric model that prioritizes equitable and democratic development. Public employees must be actively involved in these trade negotiations.

Trade negotiations on services are the new frontier of the neo-liberal agenda. The NAFTA services chapter and the WTO services agreement (the GATS) have extended trade rules into areas of national policy and regulation previously considered beyond the reach of trade negotiators such as maintaining local water and sewerage systems to speculating on global financial markets.

The PSI report Democracy or Dominance in the Americas? The FTAA vs Public Services – focuses on the FTAA negotiations on trade in services. The key issues include:

  • How will state, provincial and local governments be covered by the FTAA trade rules?
  • What is meant by the commitment to universal coverage of all service sectors?
  • Will negotiators seek stronger protections for public services than those included in NAFTA and the GATS?
  • Will the FTAA apply to all measures and services not specifically exempted (top-down approach), or will it only apply to those services and measures which national governments specifically list in the agreement (bottom-up approach)?
  • Will negotiators further weaken the regulatory authority of governments by agreeing to restrictive rules on market access and domestic regulations?
  • Will the FTAA permit governments and public agencies to use public procurement to promote economic development, human rights, fair wages and sustainable environmental practices?
  • Will the FTAA include specific, enforceable provisions to protect workers rights and the integrity of the natural environment?

The PSI report discusses the strategic choices available to opponents of the FTAA and suggests steps to safeguard public services in any future trade agreements in the Americas. It proposes that activists lend critical support to the goal of completing a South American Free Trade Area, which could help to counterbalance the power of US economic interests in hemispheric negotiations.

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For further information on Public Services International and its participation within the Peoples Summit in Quebec, please contact:

Cam Duncan, (418) 653-4941
Magaly Brito, (418) 653-4941
Raul de la Puente (418) 653-4941 or:
PSI Regional Office, Washington DC: (202) 824-0880