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[eccr] European Parliament resolution on the General Agreement on Trade inServices (GATS) within the WTO, including cultural diversity

Mon Mar 31 09:16:17 GMT 2003

From: "Myriam Horngren" <(mh /at/>
Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2003 10:01:52 +0100
Subject: RE: [CRIS Info] Re: [alt.wsis] cultural exception

European Parliament resolution on the General Agreement on Trade in
Services (GATS) within the WTO, including cultural diversity
12 March 2003

The European Parliament,
- having regard to the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference Declaration,
adopted on 14 November 2001 in Doha,
- having regard to its resolution of 18 November 1999 on the
Commission's communication to the Council and the European Parliament
on the EU's approach to the WTO Millennium Round(1),
- having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2001 on the Fourth WTO
Ministerial Conference(2),
- having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2001 on openness and
democracy in international trade(3),
- having regard to Article 22 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights,
which states that 'the Union shall respect cultural, religious and
linguistic diversity',
- having regard to the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural
Diversity, which stresses 'the specificity of cultural goods and
services which, as vectors of identity, values and meaning, must not be
treated as mere commodities or consumer goods' (Article 8) and states
that 'market forces alone cannot guarantee the preservation and
promotion of cultural diversity, which is the key to sustainable human
development' (Article 11),
A. whereas the EU is the world leader in the services sector, due, in
part, to its openness to competition; and whereas open service markets
can, in principle, be advantageous for all countries, as they lower
prices for consumers and business,
B. whereas the services sector is extremely diverse, ranging from
health and education to retailing and financial services,
C. whereas the WTO Doha Round is to focus on a development agenda, and
concrete results must therefore be achieved in order to convince the
poorest nations that the success of the WTO is critical to the
economies of all countries, both rich and poor,
D. whereas, however, the GATS agreement has given rise to widespread
concern regarding lack of transparency in the negotiating process and
in relation to its possible impact on public services and the
regulation of services in general,
Political scrutiny and transparency
1. Recalls that the liberalisation of services is a matter of great
public debate and that the offer must therefore be subject to effective
parliamentary scrutiny; consequently, welcomes the efforts made by the
Commission to provide some Members of the European Parliament with the
GATS EU offers; calls, however, for further transparency, including
full access to EU negotiating documents for all Members of the European
Parliament, subject to the European Parliament's rules on
2. Welcomes the efforts made by the Commission to improve transparency
and to involve interest groups from all relevant service sectors,
including social partners, as well as civil society groups, but
believes that further improvements are essential, making available the
extensive information on the EU requests and offers, so as to allow for
an informed public debate before any offer is made to the WTO; calls on
the Commission to suggest to the WTO that requests and offers by all
Member States should be made public;
The EU offer
3. Welcomes the Commission's initial offer on GATS as an important part
of the Doha negotiations and a positive signal to the WTO members that
the EU is open to businesses and supports a non-discriminatory,
regulated system; supports the commitments to enhance market access for
EU service providers by reducing or eliminating barriers to trade in
4. Recalls that the negotiations on trade in services are to be
conducted with a view to promoting the economic growth of all trading
partners and the development of the developing and least developed
countries, and that the GATS negotiations should be measured against
this overriding goal;
5. Recalls that the GATS is a voluntary agreement and that its
principles do not impose either privatisation or deregulation, nor do
they prescribe a particular degree of liberalisation, as such; insists,
however, that developing and least developed countries should not be
pressured to liberalise services, in particular public services;
6. Welcomes, in addition, the Commission's announcement that no offers
of liberalisation are proposed in the health, education and audiovisual
sectors, and calls on the Commission to maintain this position
throughout the GATS negotiations and to ensure that no circumvention of
this right can take place;
7. Supports the right of each WTO member to regulate public services
and services of general interest, and to uphold the principle of
universal service obligations; wishes to see a clarification of the
right to regulate, with a view to ensuring that it cannot be undermined
by the application of trade-related criteria such as the necessity test
or the requirement to be as 'least trade-restrictive' as possible;
8. Supports a further opening up of markets in the financial services
and telecom sector, and in other areas such as computer services,
professional services, business services, construction and engineering,
distribution, tourism and maritime transport; believes that the
European experience shows that the abolition of monopolistic structures
can lead to more customer-oriented services at a reduced price, whilst
at the same time creating skilled employment;
9. Supports the inclusion of environmental services insofar as they are
classified in the proposal; at the same time, agrees to exclude access
to, and management of, water resources, as well as the allocation
10. Welcomes the offer to grant developing countries, in particular,
better opportunities to supply services to the EU market through
temporary cross-border movement of qualified personnel, but insists
that negotiations must ensure protection of cross-border workers
against all forms of discrimination; recalls that in all these cases,
EU and national working conditions, minimum wage requirements and any
collective wage agreements must continue to apply, regardless of
whether or not the employer is registered within the EU;
11. Stresses that 'commercial presence' (investment) must continue to
be governed by domestic tax, social and other regulatory measures;
insists on the right to make foreign commercial presence conditional on
respect for the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning
Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy and the revised OECD
Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises;
Cultural services
12. Stresses the importance of cultural diversity, the need to respect
national and regional diversity and to bring the common cultural
heritage to the fore; each Member State should have the legal
flexibility to take all necessary measures in the areas of cultural and
audiovisual policy so as to preserve and promote cultural diversity;
13. Recalls that cultural services are not to be compared to most other
services and are therefore treated differently in existing agreements;
recognises the European audiovisual sector's special role in sustaining
cultural pluralism, economic performance and freedom of expression;
reaffirms its commitment to the freedom of action in the sphere of
audiovisual policy obtained at the Uruguay Round; takes the view that
the GATS rules on cultural services, in particular in the audiovisual
sector, should not jeopardise the cultural diversity and autonomy of
the WTO contracting parties;
14. Supports the Commission in maintaining the possibility for the
Community, its Member States and its regions to preserve and develop
their capacity to define and implement policies in the cultural and
audiovisual sectors, in order to preserve their cultural diversity;
Impact on developing countries
15. Recognises that the ability of some developing and least developed
countries to regulate service sectors which were previously under
public control or ownership may be limited or non-existent, and calls
on the Commission to act sensitively in areas in which the developing
country concerned has genuine development-based objections; insists
that certain service sectors, such as water and sanitation, have a
special status in developing and least developed countries, as they
have a direct and dramatic impact on people's daily lives, and
therefore require special treatment;
16. Calls on the Commission to press, in conformity with Article XIX of
the GATS, for a full assessment of trade in services in parallel with
the Doha Development Agenda negotiations;
17. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council,
the Commission and the governments of the Member States and of the
candidate countries.

(1) OJ C 189, 7.7.2000, p.213.
(2) OJ C 112 E, 9.5.2002, p.321.
(3) OJ C 112 E, 9.5.2002, p. 326.

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