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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 10/21/16

Trade Deals Disrupting Work World -One is WTO Proposal to Facilitate Opening of US + EU Markets to New Temp. Services

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Trojan Horse at TTIP demonstration in Europe. TTIP may hijack Jill Stein's green New Deal by making job stimulus impossible for US cities by including government procurement provisions that would make US infrastructure projects part of a common labor mark
Trojan Horse at TTIP demonstration in Europe. TTIP may hijack Jill Stein's green New Deal by making job stimulus impossible for US cities by including government procurement provisions that would make US infrastructure projects part of a common labor mark
(Image by European Green Party)
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From its inception in 1995, the major goal of the WTO has been creating common markets for goods and services. Previous to the WTO's creation, the services part of the trade equation "Everything you cannot drop on your foot" was not receiving much attention, with services being thought of as mostly an in country thing, with services in a given country mostly being performed by the country's own workers. However, that is rarely the least expensive, highest value way to do things, or so say management consultants who advocate for the global value chains approach. Its claimed that a large portion of the world's GDP could be saved by optimizing who does what where and when. Certainly, thats where the money is - services are as much as 80% of developed country markets, especially the US. Many people would say, leave well enough alone, but there are those who see huge opportunities for US and EU companies opening up by embracing global value chains.

So, starting in 1995 with the WTO GATS, a number of deals are hoping to end what is claimed to be widespread "protectionism" in services, starting with the higher paid occupations and working downward. Large numbers of workers in developed countries and small and medium sized businesses that could not take advantage of global value chains might lose jobs and businesses, but that loss would be offset is hoped by much higher profits for business owners and MNC stockholders. In order to hurry the changes along, a number of new efforts have been undertaken. They include new trade deals, that focus on services or include some services, and an attempt to revive an existing deal, a new proposal to the WTO to facilitate trade alleged to have already been committed to under the 1995 WTO GATS.
es may be about to change that.

An Indian WTO proposal for a new "Trade-Facilitation Agreement on Services" could bring a lot of changes to both developed and developing countries by vastly increasing whats known as "Mode Four" intra-corporate business travel across borders, to work, for long periods, up to six years per visa.

The 1995 WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services ("GATS") is a complex agreement, however some of its goals, are fairly straightforward. However, they don't represent good policy because the agreement is so far reaching that it has the effect of overruling democratic rule to provide an unprecedented level of inflexible control, in the form of a sort of "Ratchet" ever increasing privatization and channeling public goods into private profits. As such it is a truly evil agreement in that it has a powerful magnifying effect on poverty, its effectuates a race to the bottom and disempowers workers, attempting to create a state of extreme dependence in critical areas on amoral multinational corporations. Its core assumptions are faulty, such as the assumption that increasing profits by cutting wages is a gain that will somehow trickle down to society. Also, in many areas, its truly wrong to claim that reduction of government interference (regulation) for corporations is a positive thing. Especially when it comes to public services It "knows the price of everything and the value of nothing" in that it tries to force privatization of essential services - override and privatize -- ending the provision of public services, ignoring the fact that in many areas, market failures have necessitated government involvement for strong reasons. It attempts to increase cross border trade in services (70-80% of all jobs) by lowering the barriers to corporations trading them across borders in every way possible, even to the point of changing long sacrosanct policies, national laws have to be disciplined by GATS if they fail to support its goals. when they can be framed as standing in the way. These changes can occur virtually anywhere, as laws and policies of all kinds might effect trade, even if this was not intended. In many areas this can have very disruptive effects, for example, constraints on health care, education and other services policy basically blocked large portions of the Democratic platform a few months ago. The public was never made aware of this fact. The existing and pending trade deals seem to me to also block virtually all of Jill Stein's platform, for different reasons. The same with Bernie Sanders platform before it.

GATS Mode Four is a guest-worker program, which allows multinational corporations to use their cheapest (or any) workers wherever they want.

It also allows temporary staffing companies to do the same thing. Many companies make legitimate use of the program, many others abuse it as a source of guaranteed profits, because of the still substantial wage gradients between countries. Such wage gradients exist because of a great many factors, and its not wise to attempt to force workers in different countries to directly compete solely on the basis of price. That strikes me as an attempt to whitewash the fact that governments have in many cases failed their peoples and low wages are often the result of historical factors. In the final analysis its the problem of the people of a country when a government has become unresponsive to their needs, and people should have the right to dump one set of politicians and replace them with others and thereby effectuate changes in policy. However, GATS and the raft of more recent agreements attempt to change that in a way which would be illegal were the world made aware of it sooner. Make no mistake of it, GATS and its progeny (the new T-deals) if allowed to perpetuate their policy traps, will destroy democracy in almost every respect that matters to people, by ending any hope at economic improvement for them, instead channeling any positive changes brought by technology (which normally by saving labor should be helping people live better) instead that new surplus value is channeled to corporations and used to further deprive people of the means of the various sustainable means of life, all of which become commodities that must be sold for the highest price possible. .

Nowhere is this race to the bottom more evident than in the world of work that the trade deals try to bring about. As national borders previously served as means of differentiating markets and wage levels, they attempt to give corporations a way of bypassing them, thats (generally) not available to workers and their families. "Temporary service providers" do not exist as people, only as units of the skill they bring to the table, which must be formally documentable, auto9matically excluding those with real world experience in favor of degree holders. However they gain no rights whatsoever outside of those bestowed upon them by being attached to a certain employer and their presence in a host country is attached to and dependent on the position they perform. When the job ends they must leave, and if they are fired they must leave. Their wages will quite likely be low, perhaps much lower than H1-B workers, as it seems that "prevailing wage" rules that apply to public employers will perhaps not apply due to WTO requirements that any national law be "not more burdensome than necessary to ensure the quality of the service". So, its probable that the entire term of employment must be performed for the rate negotiated at the beginning. (when they may have far less experience, experience that under normal conditions would justify increases in wages, especially in areas like IT where skills drive wages more than in many other areas.) . What will they be paid? From a number of sources, what I have been able to glean is that it seems that the Mode Four workers pay is between the worker and their employer, and may not be subject to US regulation (as they will be subcontractors) so it may well be anything they agree upon. Therefore the situation is guaranteed to produce abusive relationships because it is much like the infamous "karfala" sponsorship program used in the Middle East.

Therefore, I think this entire approach is a mistake. The trade deal enabled cross border trade in workers has the potential to become a huge and problematic loophole in worker protections which gets abused widely, but which gains a foothold because of the huge amounts of corrupting financial incentive provided by greed.

This greed will be framed as benevolence in giving work 'opportunities' to developing countries. (however, those opportunities would still exist without the agreement, and probably be much better in terms for the employees, ie. those actually doing the work. So I think that "opportunity" is not what its cracked up to be, instead its a system designed to siphon as much of the value away from the working people and encourage corruption.

What about the customers, will money saved be passed on to customers/taxpayers/patients/etc?

In the case of healthcare -- an important area that may soon be faced with a involuntary change which will likely be presented as "requiring" this shift on a large scale.

I don't think lowered prices could explicitly be passed on, and remain GATS-legal (!) so I think we would be naive to expect any change at all.

Before the lies begin, it must be said that WTO rules on financial services regulation might well prevent a government from mandating that money saved by using very low cost healthcare workers or shipping the poorer sick patients requiring inpatient (hospitalized) care overseas to be treated where costs were lower- be passed on to patients. Doing that would defeat the whole goal, INCREASING PROFITABILITY. This is the change GATS has wrought, under the surface.

This strong possibility needs investigation and discussion because of a disturbing possibility, that, we might soon lose the parts of the ACA which require that insurance companies offer insurance to all patients (guaranteed issue) due to a feature -- standstill- of the 1998 financial services portion of the GATS agreement)

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Chris is a person with a questioning and inquisitive mind living in the United States, who believes another world is possible.
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