Saturday, April 14, 2007

Secret documents reveal EU's tough stance on global trade

Secret documents reveal EU's tough stance on global trade

The documents are at the foot of this article. To read them you need Adobe Acrobat Reader. Get it here.

John Vidal, Charlotte Denny and Larry Elliott
The Guardian

The European Union is demanding full-scale privatisation of public monopolies across the world as its price for dismantling the common agricultural policy in the new round of global trade talks, secret documents leaked to the Guardian revealed yesterday.

The sweeping requests for the opening up of sensitive sectors of its trading partners' economies including water, energy, sewerage, telecoms, post and financial services are contained in a 1,000-page draft document prepared by Brussels officials for approval by member states next month.

Europe has spelled out in detail a long list of restrictions which it wants its trading partners to drop. These include requirements that New York estate agents be US nationals, a ban in Mexico on foreigners owning land within 50km of the border and rules in Korea restricting the sale of alcohol to licensed providers.

Many of Europe's demands are likely to meet with bitter opposition from its trading partners, resentful that Brussels is dragging its feet on opening up its own markets in key areas. In some areas, such as energy and postal services, Brussels wants other countries to break up national monopolies which its own member states have been reluctant to tackle.

The draft negotiating strategy has provoked alarm among development campaigners who fear the ultimate goal is to push poor countries into privatising public services like health and education.

"We are shocked by how the the EU is preparing to trample over its claims to be in favour of sustainable development in the naked pursuit of the interests of European multinational service corporations," said Dave Timms from the World Development Movement. "These documents confirm our worst fears about these negotiations. The EU is targeting sectors where there is no evidence that liberalisation benefits developing countries."

With Brussels under mounting pressure from its trading partners to scrap its expensive system of agricultural subsidies and tariff walls in the new round of talks launched in Doha last November, Europe's top trade official, Pascal Lamy is hoping to make major gains at the negotiating table in the increasingly lucrative global trade in services, particularly in the financial sector.

The EU wants its companies to be able to compete on an equal footing with local firms which will require its trading partners to scrap rules banning foreign competition and ownership in sensitive parts of their economies. The strategy is the fruit of years of lobbying by Europe's financial services sector which is hoping to expand throughout Latin America and Asia.

With the City of London, home to the most sophisticated financial industry in Europe, Britain is likely to be a big winner; Mr Lamy's initiative has enthusiastic backing in Westminster.

Read the documents here
EU requests: Argentina
EU requests: Australia
EU requests: Brazil
EU requests: Canada
EU requests: Chile
EU requests: China
EU requests: Colombia
EU requests: Egypt
EU requests: Hong Kong
EU requests: India
EU requests: Indonesia
EU requests: Israel
EU requests: Japan
EU requests: Korea
EU requests: Malaysia
EU requests: Mexico
EU requests: New Zealand
EU requests: Pakistan
EU requests: Panama
EU requests: Paraguay
EU requests: Philippines
EU requests: Singapore
EU requests: South Africa
EU requests: Switzerland
EU requests: Taiwan
EU requests: Thailand
EU requests: Uruguay
EU requests: USA
EU requests: Venezuela