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Comments sought on GATS.



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Peter Andren MP - Independent Member for Calare

18 February 2003

Comments Sought on GATS

The people of Calare are invited to make comment on Australia’s negotiations in the World Trade Organisation General Agreement on Trade in Services (WTO-GATS) according to Federal Member for Calare, Peter Andren.

“The Government is inviting public comment on a discussion paper about GATS issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,” Mr Andren said.

“I’ve heard many concerns from the electorate about the GATS process, which is essentially about requests from other countries to remove local regulations considered restrictive of trade in services.

“Requests include such things as allowing foreign law firms to hire local lawyers, removal of permanent residency requirements for various overseas professionals and services, and access to essential transport facilities such as ports, road and rail.

“However, it’s important that people realise Australia’s initial GATS offer may be amended or withdrawn at any time and that we are not obliged to accept others’ requests if we don’t agree.

“GATS cannot override the capacity of sovereign governments to regulate for public policy reasons.

“I well remember the OECD’s proposal for a Multilateral Agreement on Investment which wanted foreign businesses given the same rights as local firms. This proposal was forced down by a number of factors, including international furore over the idea that countries might be made to accept foreign investment against the national interest.

“The discussion paper provides an opportunity for people to study Australia’s negotiating objectives and to look at what are asking of Australia under the GATS process.

“This is in the lead up to preparation of Australia’s final responses to those requests to be lodged by the end of March this year.

“Four out of five Australian workers are employed in the services industry and the export of services contributes towards over two thirds of Australian economic output, so GATS provides an important opportunity to present the interests of service exporters.

“There is some public anxiety about the GATS process and this discussion paper explains what GATS is about as well as providing information about the current negotiations.

“It is a good chance to examine the current GATS and I strongly urge people to present their comments to the Government.

“The Discussion paper is available on the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website at www.dfat.gov.au/trade/negotiations/services.

“Comments are invited by Monday 24 February 2003, to The Director, Service Trade Negotiations, Office of Trade Negotiations, Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, Barton ACT 0221 or by email to: services.negotiations@dfat.gov.au,” Mr Andren said.

For more information: 02 6332 6229 or 0419 612 891

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