LEAKED EU TRADE DOCUMENTS CONFIRM MUNICIPAL WATER/SEWER
SYSTEMS UNDER ATTACK
The Alliance for Democracy
Despite frequent denials by European trade officials,
they are targeting public services in the current round
of services negotiations. The Alliance for Democracy has
received leaked official European Commission documents
confirming that municipal water/sewer systems in the United
States are on the negotiating table.
The documents, being made public today by the Polaris
Institute of Canada, are available at http://www.polarisinstitute.org
They reveal that the European Commission (EC) has requested
that the United States, along with many developing countries,
adopt favorable trade rules to help open its municipal
water/sewer systems to competition by European corporations.
The negotiations are taking place to expand the General
Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), one of the agreements
under the authority of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The WTO deadline for initial offers in response to the
requests is March 31, 2003.
Each restricted document states: "Member States are
requested to ensure that this text is not made publicly
available and is treated as a restricted document." The
public was never supposed to know what public services
were being traded away in secret bilateral negotiations
among the 145 WTO member countries until all the deals
had been cut.
"Municipal water/sewer systems are under a GATS attack
and local officials have not even been told. Secret negotiations
about the public's right to water is not how democracy
should work," observed Ruth Caplan, coordinator of the
Alliance for Democracy's trade campaign.
"It is time for United States to make its requests
and offers public," Caplan stated. "The public needs to
know whether the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
(USTR) headed by Robert Zoellick will protect essential
public services or trade them away in response to the
European requests. The Alliance calls on USTR to make
public all its requests to other countries immediately
and to make its offers public as soon as they are made."
To date only unsatisfactory general summaries of the requests
have been released.
"Today the cat is out of the bag. We're not talking
bananas here. The EU is going after our basic public water/sewer
services so their mega-corporations can make big bucks
in the U.S. market," said Ruth Caplan.
The EC is specifically requesting that its corporations
be given market access for "Water collection, purification
and distribution services through mains" within United
States' boundaries. This classification under "Water for
Human Use & Wastewater Management" has been created
by the EC.
The EU also wants their water corporations to be
treated at least as well as U.S. companies in all measures
affecting municipal services, even measures which might
be construed to modify the conditions of competition.
Almost all local regulations could be under threat. Where
the U.S.had previously agreed to opening up waste water
services for private industry, the EC wants public services
opened up as well.
"The EC pats itself on the back for fully defending
its own public services by not making any commitments
on education and health services, but goes ahead with
asking that the United States and developing countries
open up their publicly-owned municipal water/sewer systems.
They are simply doing the bidding of Vivendi, Suez and
RWE/Thames, the giant European corporations which want
access to water service markets," according to Caplan.
"This is a lucrative market for EC corporations since
about 80% of local water/sewer systems are still in public
The track record of Vivendi, Suez and Thames has
not been good. Atlanta just terminated its contract with
Suez subsidiary United Water due to poor performance.
Vivendi has performed very poorly in Great Britain, Puerto
Rico and Argentina. Thames' environmental record in Great
Britain includes 233 pollution incidents and 8 prosecutions
in 1999 alone, according to research by Public Services
International. GATS locks in commitments made to open
up specific services to foreign competition, so once the
U.S. commits to including >water/sewer services, they
will not be able to back out.