Trade Liberalisation

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 1st May 2003.

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Photo of Patricia Hewitt Patricia Hewitt Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry 11:30 am, 1st May 2003

Nothing in World Trade Organisation rules or the general agreement on trade in services requires either developing or developed countries to privatise any of their public services, including water. Indeed, the GATS offer that the EU has just published explicitly excludes our public services and public utilities. Attempts to privatise water in developing countries had nothing whatsoever to do with GATS or the WTO.

Although I agree with my hon. Friend that it is extremely important to get the phasing of market opening in developing countries right and to accompany that with appropriate measures for governance and effective regulation, we only have to compare the experience of African countries with that of many countries in south-east Asia over the past 30 years to appreciate how trade in a more liberal world economy that can be made fair as well as free benefits poor people in poor countries.