Global civil society should not be lulled into complacency by gloomy media reports about the deadlock in the Doha Round negotiations. While agricultural and other important issues remain serious obstacles to a deal, negotiators continue to work non-stop in Geneva. The decision whether to close a deal is a political one that will be made, as in past rounds, by a small group of powerful governments.
If there is a breakthrough on agriculture, the pressure will rapidly intensify for a large package of GATS commitments. Even if a deal can not be concluded by year-end, negotiators are currently making critical decisions, including about the text of new GATS rules restricting domestic regulation. These threatened rules would seriously curtail the right to regulate and weaken governments’ ability to protect the public.
At the December 2005 Hong Kong ministerial meeting, developed countries forced through a controversial set of services demands that prepared the ground for a final push to expand the GATS. This new paper analyses benchmarks, plurilateral request-offer, domestic regulation and other pressure tactics so that non-governmental organizations, elected representatives, developing countries and ordinary citizens can intervene to counter them.