The countries that are party to the GATS are entering a new phase of negotiations. These negotiations chaired by Sergio Marchi, Canadas ambassador to the WTO and former international trade minister
Negotiators are seeking a comprehensive agreement covering all government measures that affect services.
Governments list the services they are willing to commit to bring under the rules of free trade. They can also list exceptions and exclusions in areas they are not willing to commit to open up to private interests.
The Canadian government has made a commitment to bring many public services under the GATS rules.
- For example, under environmental services Canada has listed sewage services, refuse disposal services, and sanitation, among others.
The government has not listed or committed health and education for negotiations under the GATS.
However, the government has listed public health insurance for discussion in the GATS negotiations. This strikes at the heart of Medicare in Canada. Once these rights are set out in the GATS, foreign investors can gain access to these public services.
Furthermore, the GATS compels governments to ongoing negotiations for further liberalization. Over the years, our public services will be challenged again and again.
It will be highly unlikely that the government will introduce public home care, or national prescription drug program after these GATS negotiations are concluded.