A civil society call for the EU to withdraw its GATS water requests

The G8 meets this week on the shores of Lake Geneva, in Evian. Appropriately, the summit has identified water as one of its key themes, with talk of a ‘global plan’ to meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015.

Yet across the lake, in Geneva itself, EU trade negotiators are using the services negotiations of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to open up other countries’ water sectors for the benefit of Europe’s private sector water industry. Under the ‘progressive liberalisation’ programme of theGeneral Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), the EU has targeted the water sectors of 72 other WTO member countries for liberalisation – including developed, developing and least developed countries alike.

The EU has made no secret of the fact that it sees GATS as “first and foremost an instrument for the benefit of business, and not only for business in general, but for individual service companies wishing to export services or to invest and operate abroad.” Building on the EU’s attempt to include ‘water for human use’ under the category of environmental services in the current GATS negotiations, an internal memo from the European Commission to Thames Water confirmed:

One of the main objectives of the EU in the new round of negotiations is to achieve real and meaningful market access for European service providers for their exports of environmental services.

European service providers dominate the global water market. The world’s top two private sector water companies, Vivendi and Suez (both French), control 70% of all private water services between them. The third largest is Thames Water, now part of German utilities conglomerate RWE. For these companies and their smaller competitors (most also European), GATS promises access to new markets and enhanced rights.

Yet the liberalisation of water has caused grave problems in many countries, where the involvement of foreign multinationals has typically raised water tariffs far beyond the reach of poor households. Any country making GATS commitments in water would bind in such liberalisation for the future, making it effectively impossible for it to reverse the liberalisation – despite its negative impacts on the poor.

There has been massive opposition from across the world to the EU’s GATS water requests. Several EU member states have criticised the requests, making charges of EU hypocrisy at a time when (quite rightly) the EU is not offering its own water distribution services for liberalisation under GATS. Even parts of the private sector water industry itself have spoken out against the inclusion of water in the GATS negotiations, and developing countries such as South Africa have called for water to be taken out of GATS altogether.

In view of the potential damage which GATS liberalisation commitments could cause to vulnerable communities worldwide, we call on the EU – and in particular its G8 members: France, Germany, Italy and the UK – to withdraw its water requests of other WTO members immediately.

We also call on the EU to withdraw its proposal to reclassify the GATS category of environmental services, by which it intends to bring ‘water for human use’ into the current GATS negotiations.

Reposted from http://www.gatswatch.org
Signatories (May 26 2003):
11.11.11 (Coalition of the Flemish North South Movement), Belgium
ACME (Association pour un Contrat Mondial sur l’eau), France
Africa-Europe Faith and Justice Network
Agir Ici, France
AIDWATCH, Australia
Alliance for Democracy, United States
Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), the Philippines
Appropriate Development Panel, United Kingdom
Artjol, Spain
ASEED Europe
ASEED Japan
Asia House, Germany
Asia Pacific Network on Food Sovereignty (APNFS)
Australian Greens
ATTAC Austria
Attac Colombia Madre Tierra
ATTAC Denmark
ATTAC France
ATTAC Italy
ATTAC Japan
ATTAC London, United Kingdom
ATTAC Netherlands
ATTAC Spain
ATTAC Sweden
Bangladesh Krishok Federation
Berne Declaration, Switzerland
Bond Beter Leefmilieu Vlaanderen, Belgium
Both ENDS, Netherlands
Bretton Woods Project, United Kingdom
Bund fr Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND) / Friends of the Earth, Germany
Buro Ver(?)antwoord, the Netherlands
Business Watch Indonesia
Campagna della Riforma della Banca Mondiale (CRBM), Italy
Center for Encounters and Active Nonviolence, Bad Ischl, Austria
Center for International Studies, Managua, Nicaragua
Center for Environmental Public Advocacy, Slovakia
CETIM (Europe – Third World Center), Switzerland
CESTA / Friends of the Earth El Salvador
Citizens’ Network on Essential Services, United States
COECOCeiba / Friends of the Earth Costa Rica
Colibri (Globenet3 Germany)
Council of Canadians, Canada
Comitato Italiano per il Contratto Mondiale dell’Acqua, Italy
Comite Social pro Vida, Cochabamba, Bolivia
Coordinadora de Defensa del Agua y de la Vida, Cochabamba, Bolivia
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)
Development VISIONS, Pakistan
Dreiknigsaktion/Kath. Jungschar, Austria
Environmental Foundation / Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka
EQUATIONS (Equitable Tourism Options), India
Federacin de Trabajadores Fabriles de Cochabamba, Bolivia
Focus on the Global South, Thailand, India and Philippines
Folkebevegelsen for bevaring av vann som fellesgode, Norway
Foundation for Community Development, Mozambique
Franciscans OFM – Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) office, Italy
Friends of the Earth Canada
Friends of the Earth Slovakia
Gender and Economic Reforms in Africa, Ghana
GRESEA (Research group for an alternative economic strategy), Belgium
INFOG (Indonesian Forum on Globalization), Indonesia
Initiative Civilcourage, Germany
Initiatives de Dveloppement Stratgique, France
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), United States
Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF), Philippines
Inter-Congregational Environmental Working Group, Italy
International Committee for the Global Water Contract (Lisbon and Brussels)
IRENE Network on Labour and Development, the Netherlands
JACSES, Japan
JPIC Commission of the Society of the Divine Word Missionaries, Japan
JPIC Secretariat of the Claritian Missionaries, Italy
Jubilee Kansai Network, Japan
Jubilee Kyushu on World Debt and Povery, Japan
JustWorld International, France
Kenya Rainwater Association
KOSA Co-ordination Southern Africa, Germany
Lunaria, Italy
Marist Brothers of the Schools – Bureau of International Solidarity, Italy
Mexican Action Network on Free Trade (RMALC), Mexico
Milieudefensie / Friends of the Earth Netherlands
Monitoring Sustainability of Globalization (MSN), Malaysia
Municipal Services Project, South Africa and Canada
Mwelekeo Wa Ngo (MWENGO), Eastern and Southern Africa
Naturschutzbund Vorarlberg, Germany
Nei til EU Sandefjord, Norway
Norwegian Church Aid , Norway
L’Observatoire des transnationales, France
ODA Watchers, Japan
Organisation pour le Renforcement des Capacites de Developpement (ORCADE), Burkina Faso
Oxfam, United Kingdom
Oxfam-Solidarity, Belgium
Polaris Institute, Canada
PROTOS, Belgium
Public Services International (PSI)
Public Citizen, United States
REDES / Friends of the Earth Uruguay
Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary – JPIC Network, USA
Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, India
Rete di Lilliput, Italy
Save the Children, United Kingdom
School Sisters of Notre Dame, Italy
Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, India
Social Watch
SOMO (Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations), The Netherlands
Sweetwater Alliance, Michigan, USA
Tearfund, United Kingdom
Transnational Institute (TNI)
La Unidad Ecologica Salvadorea (UNES), El Salvador
Unione degli Universitari, Italy
UNISON, United Kingdom
VODO (Flemish Platform on Sustainable Development), Belgium
WALHI (Indonesian Forum for Environment) / Friends of the Earth, Indonesia
War on Want, United Kingdom
WaterAid, United Kingdom
Water Pressure Group, Auckland, New Zealand
Water Watch Penang, Malaysia
Wells for India, United Kingdom
Weltumspannend Arbeiten, Austria
WEMOS, the Netherlands
Werkgroep Globalisering Delft-Den Haag, the Netherlands
Women’s Intenational League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), Netherlands section
World Development Movement, United Kingdom
World Economy, Ecology & Development (WEED), Germany

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