Ruggiero's speeches, 1995-99
write in response to the column written by Nick Cohen (March 4, 2001).
Not only is the column immensely inaccurate and contradictory, it also
presents a point of view that is deeply offensive to developing
countries. Mr. Cohen must have been pressed for time when he wrote his
column and thus was unable to engage in any serious research.
Cohen states that the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services
will result in Britain having to open services like health, education,
energy, film and television to competition from private corporations.
It may have escaped Mr. Cohen's notice but competition between private
and public services providers already exists in Britain in these
sectors and yet the nation seems to be thriving. Whether these sectors
are opened up further or new sectors are included in negotiations is
entirely up to British government officials. It bears repeating the
comments made by Director-General Mike Moore in the Guardian (February
26), and highlighted by Mr. Cohen, that no government need open any
service sectors for negotiation, that they may restrict foreign
service providers and that they may make demands of foreign providers
that they do not make of domestic companies. Moreover, governments may
insist on price controls and may make technology transfer a
requirement as part of any offer to open its market.
is difficult to judge whether Mr. Cohen's assertions about the GATS
reflect wilful misrepresentation, or only woeful ignorance. I could
cite many other examples besides those relating to the false notion
that GATS forces nations to privatize social services and make gifts
to the multinationals. But just to take one: Mr. Cohen asserts that
“rules must not be 'burdensome' or ' unnecessary' or 'restrictive of
trade'.” What the text actually says is that rules must be based
“on objective and transparent criteria...[and]...not more burdensome
than necessary to ensure the quality of the service...and in the case
of licensing procedures, not in themselves a restriction on the supply
of the service.” I think you will agree that the difference is
the saddest aspect of Mr. Cohen's anti-GATS diatribe, is his very
colonial attitude toward the views of developing countries. Is Mr.
Cohen aware that developing countries make up their own minds with
respect to opening service sectors to foreign competition? Many have
opened their markets to foreign providers of banking, insurance and
telecoms services because they want to attract much-needed expertise
and foreign investment. But currently, not a single developing country
has started or even discussed starting, negotiations to open its
markets to foreign providers of health or education services.
Apparently, Mr. Cohen believes countries like India, Brazil, Egypt,
Malaysia or Tanzania are incapable of defending their interests or to
realise what is best for them in terms of the pace and scope of market
opening. I invite him to Geneva where he will learn otherwise.
is one element of the column with which I agree, it is Mr. Cohen's
assertion that he is “not up to date.”