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The attitude of Lebanon in WTO negotiations : Why Lebanon should not become a member

Sunday 30 April 2006, by Webmoudir

All the versions of this article: [عربي] [English] [français]

In the context of its accession to the WTO, Lebanon has to make a certain number of commitments regarding the liberalization of service sectors. Should these sectors be liberalized in the process, they will then be under GATS jurisdiction (see text on the GATS).

The present text aims at providing a brief overview of Lebanon’s commitments. More detailed studies are in progress.

Lebanon’s main commitments are as follows:

- The whole postal and telecommunications services

- Almost all education services, with an important exception: the public subsector. We have seen that such exception is difficult to fulfil in a commitment under the GATS, in particular due to the fact that there are often public and private suppliers competing in this sector.

- Almost all cultural services. Except audiovisual services. In this matter, Lebanon has been subject to strong, conflicting pressures from, on one hand, the United States (in favour of an opening) and, on the other hand, the European Community (against an opening).

The scope of Lebanon’s commitments is far-reaching and, to some extent, frightening.

The list of commitments is not definitive and will be so only when they become concrete, i.e., at the time of the accession and of its ratification by the Parliament.

Concrete risks
- In terms of education: The type of liberalization promoted by the GATS leaves ample room to private investors to bring complaints to the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) if they feel that they have been adversely affected.

- For the other services: The adoption of potential general conditions (such as the supply of minimal services at affordable prices, or the supply of identical services over the whole territory) is obviously conflicting with “profitability goals” and is opposed by liberalists. Concretely, precedents show that social policies and environmental concerns are not criteria which are taken into account in the WTO rulings.

Lebanon is therefore at real risk of seeing villages and poor regions cut from telephone as has been the case during the war.

The country is at risk of killing a nascent cultural production.

The WTO is part of a logic of commercialising every human activity without taking into account human, social or environmental criteria. Attac movements around the world advocate against the WTO’s devastating action.

Attac Lebanon considers that the accession of Lebanon to the WTO would be damaging for the country and that it would hinder all possibility to override the neoliberal policies that have been carried out over the last 15 years at the expense of the majority of the population.

Attac will continue to work on these issues and to actively disseminate information in order to propose alternative solutions based on solidarity.

Translation : Anne May, Coorditrad

WTO = World Trade Organisation GATS = General Agreement on Trade in Services

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