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Serving whose interests? The political economy of trade in services agreements

Serving Whose Interests?
The Political Economy of Trade in Services Agreements

by Jane Kelsey, University of Auckland, New Zealand
July 2008

Serving Whose Interests? explores the political economy of
trade in services agreements from a critical legal
perspective. The controversy surrounding the General
Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and its variants at
the regional and bilateral levels can, it is argued, be seen as
a clash between two paradigms. For most of the 20th
century, under welfare states and state socialism, these
services were viewed from a local and national perspective
as embodying a mix of economic, social and cultural
dimensions and were managed by the state through strong
regulation and direct ownership and delivery. That socially
based and state-centred approach has been progressively
displaced since the 1980s through neoliberal policies of
privatisation, deregulation and liberalisation, the
transnationalisation of finance and production, and new
technologies. The internationalization of services markets
has thus become a driver of contemporary capitalism.

The explicit aim of ‘trade in services’ agreements is to lock in
national regulations and policies that enhance the profitability of international services markets. They are exclusively the tools of contemporary global capitalism, yet are represented as the new pathway for development. It is argued here, however, that there is a fundamental contradiction between the global market model and the intrinsically social nature of services, whether they are social services like education, media and midwifery, or inputs to capitalist production such as finance, transport, energy, and telecommunications.

This book examines and draws out these tensions and contradictions through a combination of theoretical analysis and a series of truly global case studies that include the market in telecommunications, financial services, education, energy, biotechnology, labour, natural resources, healthcare and transport.

The product of extensive research by an internationally renowned expert in the area, yet written in an accessible manner, Serving Whose Interests? combines a technical and political analysis that will be of interest to informed trade specialists, academics and students working in the areas of international trade and international trade law, and others with interests in the organisation and regulation of the global economy.

About the author

Jane Kelsey is Professor of Law at the University of Auckland and a prominent critic of globalisation. She talks on globalisation and structural adjustment to a wide range of audiences; has undertaken consultancy work, lecture tours and keynote addresses in the Pacific islands, Japan, Australia, Iceland, Latvia,
Sweden, Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, and Australia for trade unions, progressive think tanks, the World Bank, governments and opposition parties; has reported on numerous WTO, APEC and ADB meetings as an accredited


Introduction: Taking Services to Market
1. Reading the GATS as Ideology
2. How the GATS was Won (and Lost?)
3. Trade-Related Development
4. The Illusion of Public Services
5. Ruling the Services Infrastructure
6. Trade in People
7. Minds and Markets
8. Dominion Over the Earth
9. Energy Wars
10. Serving Whose Interests?

A GlassHouse book

July 2008: 234x156: 400pp
Hb: 978-0-415-44821-5: £85.00
Pb: 978-0-415-44822-2: £24.99

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