Brussels
22 November 2021

Public webinar - launch of EPSU/AK study on trade in services

Joint EPSU/AK EUROPA/ÖGB Europabüro webinar 22.11.2021

We are pleased to invite you to a webinar on 22 November 2021, from 14h00 to 16h00 (CET) on “Public interest at the crossroads: Towards an alternative agenda in trade in services and a rethink of disciplines on domestic regulation”, organised by EPSU, AK EUROPA and ÖGB Europabüro.

In 2020 EPSU and AK EUROPA initiated with Markus Krajewski, professor of public law and international law at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, a study on trade in services agreements and the potential risks of so-called ‘enhanced disciplines’ on domestic regulation being negotiated in the Joint Initiative (JSI) on Domestic Services Regulation in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This controversial issue goes back to the unfinished business of WTO´s Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and other fora pushing for further liberalisation in sensitive areas such as health and social care, or licensing and other standards for service providers (like the halted Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) negotiations).

A preliminary outline of the study was discussed in June 2020 (available on the EPSU website and No trade in public services! | AKEUROPA) but it is only now that the 65 members of the WTO involved in the negotiations have agreed an initial text, officially called the “Reference Paper on Services Domestic Regulation”. The deal will possibly be formally endorsed at the next WTO Ministerial Conference at the end of November and then it will be integrated by participants in their GATS Schedules, i.e. their commitments in the area of services at the WTO.

In light of the recent conclusion of negotiations on the Reference Paper and the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference, we are pleased to invite you to a webinar to discuss the findings of the now-finalised EPSU/AK study.

Programme

The webinar will address the following questions:

  • Where does the controversy of ‘enhanced disciplines’ on domestic regulation come from and which offensive interests are at stake in trade in services negotiations? What does the Reference Paper look like?
  • What are potential risks and future challenges for public interest regulations?
  • What alternative agenda is there for rethinking the global trade in services regime? What would reliable safeguards for public policy space and social concerns look like?

After a presentation of the study by Prof. Markus Krajewski (University of Erlangen-Nürnberg)
we will hear preliminary comments from:

  • Scott Sinclair, former Director of Trade Policy at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and
  • Kinda Mohamadieh, legal adviser and senior researcher with the Third World Network office in Geneva.

This will be followed a Q&A session and some concluding remarks by EPSU and AK Europa.

A short overview of the speakers and hosts

Background

As mentioned above, the controversial issue of ‘enhanced disciplines’ goes back to the unfinished business of the WTO’s Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and other fora pushing for further liberalisation in sensitive areas such as in health and social care or in licensing and other standards for service providers (e.g. TISA). A main driver to advance these ‘enhanced disciplines’ is to make regulations first and foremost responsive to commercial interests and market expansion. In the EU context, EPSU has worked on Internal Market policy to mitigate this ‘business first’ approach (e.g., liberalisation Directives, Services Directive + and Services Package, Better Regulation agenda..).

But what about protecting and expanding public interest regulations? What lessons from trade in services liberalisation in the past can we learn, and what future policy interventions are needed? What impact might the Reference Paper /JSI on domestic regulation have? How could reliable safeguards against this rolling offensive agenda promoting (only) commercial interests look like? The response to these questions is more and urgent in light of the intertwined and growing problems of climate change+, public health risks, poverty and inequality, all if which are linked to systematic market failures. In a European context, there are signs of some shifts in policy (EU New Green Deal, Recovery and Resilience Funds, European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR)). However, these shifts need to be accelerated, made permanent and made global.

Practical details

Everyone is welcome to participate, but registration is mandatory.
The link to connect will be sent to registered participants only a few days before the event.

Interpretation will be available in English, French and German.

If you are interested to participate in the webinar, please send an email to Anneke Krijger, EPSU (akrijger@epsu.org), at the latest by 18 November 2021.

Further information 

Study: Trading away public policy space?

Event type

22 November 2021

ONLINE
Zoom
1000 Brussels
Belgium