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EI's WTO update: the third day

First of all, a co-ordination and mobilisation meeting was held among delegates from the EI family to discuss the last initiatives of some governments in relation to GATS and the possible scenarios which might turn out later in the day in the meetings with governmental delegations and during the workshops organised by the civil society. The immediate result of the meeting is the release of a press statement reiterating EI's position that education should be excluded from all applications in GATS.

Next, EI delegates joined the more than 5000 participants in the streets of Hong Kong for a demonstration. It is, however, regrettable that the event was marred by violence towards the end. There were also moments when the official opening ceremony was interrupted by frequent cries of the representatives of the civil society. In the evening, the EI delegation met with colleagues from the Hong Kong Teachers' Association (HKTA). Views were exchanged on the social and education issues in Hong Kong as well as in China. The general impression of the EI delegation at the end of the first day of the conference, is that agriculture and developmental aid are the two major subjects where agreement seems unlikely to be achieved between on the one hand, industrialised countries such as the United States and the European Union, and industrialising countries represented by South Africa, Brazil and India on the other. The strategy employed by industrialising countries is to ask for more effort in the reduction of subsidy in agriculture in industrialised countries, whereas the latter request that industrialising countries should first of all open up their service market, including education, before any demands in agriculture could be met. We are now caught in a dilemma: either industrialising countries maintain the present deadlock by continuing to refuse to open up their service market, hence making industrialised countries such as the European Union reluctant to make better offers in the area of agriculture; or, the former could open up their service market to international investments, including education, but risk losing their cultural identity and their education system to privatisation. More updates will follow.