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Norwegian GATS requirements are deducted

Norway draws GATS requirements to many developing countries. Foreign Minister Gahr Støre made a statement in the Storting last week.


For over four years, the solidarity communities in Norway have demanded that Norway must demand free access to important service markets in developing countries. Closed doors are everything ATTAC, the Environment and Development Forum, the Development Fund and the Welfare Alliance have met.

But now Foreign Minister Gahr Støre states on behalf of the government that Norway withdraws all demands for free market access for services in LDCs, the world's fifty poorest countries. In addition, Norway withdraws all requirements for free market access to operate with water supply, power supply and higher education in all developing countries. The government will also publish an overview of which countries have received claims on which sectors. Everything is sensational – even outside Norway's borders.

Soria Moria gave hope

Following what was stated in the Soria Moria Declaration, it was hoped that some GATS claims would be drawn. The government promised it would "Review and re-evaluate all demands Norway has made to developing countries on the liberalization of the service sector in the GATS negotiations". But reviewing can mean so much, and reassessing doesn't mean anything more than reassessing.

In the election campaign, the parties were challenged on this point, including by ATTAC and the Welfare Alliance. The SV and the Center Party replied that they would advocate that any red-green government should withdraw all demands that Norway has set for poor countries to open important service areas for foreign competition.

Unclear Labor Party

: There was nothing that the Labor Party would simply agree to. The party's industrial policy spokesman, Olav Akselsen, categorically rejected the party's intention to draw such demands before the election. Jens Stoltenberg was more unclear, although the Labor Party program states that national authorities must not "Forced to privatize public welfare goods, for example in the sectors of education, health, energy and water supply, and that Norway does not make such demands on poor countries".

Jens Stoltenberg wrote in the Nation (August 23) that if the Bondevik government has made such demands, claims can be drawn if the Labor Party comes into government. But at the same time he claimed that "The Storting is not aware of whether the government has actually made such demands."

Requirements for 38 poor countries

At "The Storting is not familiar with…", was both right and wrong. It was right – and strongly criticized – that the Bondevik government would not publish what demands Norway had made to other countries in the GATS negotiations. Leaks were necessary for us to know what the Bondevik government had demanded.

Thomas Vermes in Nationen was first out, while Helene Bank in the Ignis Foundation filled in more details in a report that can be downloaded from the website or from

It turned out that Norway had demanded that 38 developing countries open the borders to competition from Norwegian service companies. The 38 were of course chosen because Norwegian service companies could gain market share with them in the areas where the Bondevik government thought we had so-called "Offensive interests".

Our "offensive interests"

In March 2001, the previous Stoltenberg government identified six areas in which Norway has "Offensive interests", and where it – within GATS – would have access to the markets of other countries. The six areas were shipping, energy services, telecommunications, so-called professional services (especially architectural, engineering and computer services), financial services (banking and insurance) and air transport.

In the summer of 2002, the Bondevik government expanded the list with two new areas, environmental services and education services. Together with the energy services, these are two of the most sensitive and controversial areas in the GATS context.

Environmental services sound beautiful enough, but cover up such a brutal reality as international large corporations taking control of the water supply in more and more developing countries – and that waste management and waste management have been tempting fields for western large corporations.

Norway in the pull for the EU and the USA

Norway is a small country, but compared to most developing countries, Norway is the strongest. This advantage is greatly strengthened because the Norwegian requirements fall into the pattern of requirements that the EU and the USA have adopted. Apart from health and education, the EU will open up all forms of services to full international competition worldwide. The United States will also enter the markets for education. And has received support from Norway.

The worst thing is that increased Norwegian market access in a developing country can tear down what is being done to build up a national and local business base in the relevant service areas. Free competition has never been a struggle on equal terms between strong and weak economies. The expression "offensive interests" precisely means that we have some industries that are strong enough to gain market share from others.

The indispensable fiery souls

Therefore, in the run-up to the election campaign, it was important that the LO Congress in May 2005 said no to Norwegian GATS requirements for developing countries: “Norway must draw all demands on developing countries for the liberalization of services. It must be up to the developing countries themselves, without pressure from rich countries, whether they want to liberalize or not. Norway must work to ensure that important welfare areas such as education, health, water and energy supply are excluded from the GATS agreement. ”

But it has been a tough battle to get there. Without the efforts of enthusiasts such as Helene Bank in the Forum for Development and the Environment, Aksel Nærstad in the Development Fund and Asbjørn Wahl in the Welfare Alliance, we would probably still have called in vain for a bit of openness about GATS requirements. That more than three-year-old demands for developing countries should be drawn by a Norwegian government, in the middle of a decisive phase in the WTO negotiations, was for one year only a beautiful dream.

There was therefore every possible reason for Ågot Valle (SV) to end his speech in the Storting debate after Gahr Støre's statement by announcing the winners "The NGO communities that have had good contact with politicians, trade unions and the NGO communities in developing countries and which, on the basis of knowledge, have mobilized and raised the debate here at home."

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