US state of Maine Opts-out of GATS and goes for social procurement
The US is a federal state. This gives states a fair degree of independence. Maine argues that it does not want to be be part of US federal government GATS commitments in a whole range of areas including health and landzoning requirements. Maine also seeks social procurement and wants to prevent sweatshops.
The US state of Maine has followed Oregon in demanding extensive carve-outs from the WTO-GATS, current negotiations as well as existing commitments.
Below are extracts from a letter of 5 April from the Governor of Maine, John E. Baldacci, to Rob Portman, then still the US Trade Representative.
While US trade policies are set at the federal level, states have the authority to decide whether they wish to be covered in areas such as services and government procurement, which are traditionally within the realm of state and local authority.
Governor Baldacci has reportedly also issued a call for other state governors to join him in a Governors’ Coalition for Sweatfree Procurement. The initiative could bring billions of state purchasing dollars into the fight against the global sweatshop economy.
The URL to the full text of Governor Baldacci’s letter is given below the extracts, along with a press release from the Maine Fair Trade Campaign.
From Maine Governor Baldacci’s letter to the USTR
I write to request that you carve Maine out of new service offers you are proposing in the context of the current Doha Round of negotiations. Maine does not wish to be bound to GATS rules for any new service sectors, including but not limited to, those proposed in your May 31, 2005 offer.
I would also like to clarify the scope of the service-sector commitments made in 1995. ... Please carve Maine out of all sectors relating to health care, including health insurance, hospitals and other health care facilities, construction and related engineering services, wholesale distribution and the cross-border nursing commitments under Placement and Supply Services of Personnel.
Maine also has a diversity of zoning and land use laws that are determined by local communities and reflect an evolving effort to decide democratically how our cities and towns will grow. In many places, land use laws include quantitative limits, particularly in environmentally sensitive areas or historic districts. In light of the fact that many other developed countries have specifically made exceptions for these policies, while the United States failed to do so, we ask that you carve Maine out of all sectors that implicate land use, including retail distribution, hotels and restaurants, and rranchising.
Please carve Maine out of the libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural services sector.
As I have stated in my previous correspondence, liberalized trade should not be promoted at the expense of state sovereignty and the democratic principles upon which this country was founded. We have an important opportunity ahead of us to develop a more effective system of state-federal consultation that requires prior informed consent from states in order to evaluate the full impacts of trade agreements on areas of domestic concern. I am a firm advocate of international trade, and I believe a strong economy with vibrant trade relationships is possible without sacrificing measures needed to provide safeguards for workers, consumers, the environment and democratic governance.
I look forward to working with your office to promote a stronger and more democratic trade agenda that benefits all.
Baldacci’s letter http://www.mainefairtrade.org/pdf/baldacci_gats_removal_ltr.pdf
Main Fair Trade Campaign http://www.citizenstrade.org/pdf/pr_maineremovedfromwtoservices_04072006.pdf