Dossier WTO - GATS


Warm greetings, all.
The following three items deal with the dissonance between the GATS and public health policies
that are designed to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm to individuals and society.
In the first, the Ontario [Canada] Public Health Association (OPHA) urges U.S. and EU negotiators to change their GATS
negotiating position on alcohol because "[I]f negotiations resume and are concluded on the basis of the current
U.S.-EU [position], serious harm to public health could result, especially in developing countries."
In the second item, Canada's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) urges Canadian government ministers to maintain
a commitment government officials made in 2003 to exclude alcohol-related services from all requests and offers Canada makes
in the current round of GATS negotiations.  CAMH also raises concerns about ongoing GATS negotiations on Domestic Regulation
restrictions, calling them a "threat to health-based alcohol policy."
The third item is a new report, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review, on aspects of GATS and other trade agreements
that "challenge tobacco and alcohol control policies", by Donald W. Zeigler, of the American Medical Association.
Please excuse any cross-posting... 
I hope you find these items of value in your continuing work.
Best regards,
Jim Grieshaber-Otto
Cedar Isle Research
Agassiz, B.C. Canada

1.  Ontario Public Health Association letter urges US and EU negotiators to withdraw “plurilateral” GATS request on beverage alcohol distribution

 Excerpts of Nov. 27, 2006 letter to U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab and European Commissioner for Trade Peter Mandelson from Ontario Public Health Association President Dr. Garry Aslanyan:

 “There is a growing recognition that alcohol, like tobacco, is a global health issue.”


 “We are writing to express our concern that the U.S. And European Union negotiating position involving beverage alcohol in WTO services negotiations could harm public health in many countries.  In particular, the U.S. And EU are jointly sponsoring a ‘plurilateral’ (or collective) request in Distribution Services in negotiations on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) which, if adopted, would obstruct governments’ ability to implement policies that reduce the substantial harm caused by alcohol.  We urge you to reconsider this request.”


“...[T]he U.S. And EU are pressuring other countries to make full national treatment and market access commitments “with no limitations” in Distribution Services, which generally includes alcohol.  This pressure, from two of the most powerful WTO members, makes it more difficult for recipient country governments to adopt the very policies that recent evidence shows to be among the most effective in reducing the serious harm caused by alcohol in society.”


“Alcohol is no ordinary commodity.  We encourage you to take advantage of the current hiatus in WTO negotiations to ensure that GATS and other trade treaty negotiations do not undermine domestic health-based alcohol policies.  As a first step, we urge you to either withdraw your support for the plurilateral request on Distribution Services or specify that it does not apply to beverage alcohol distribution.”

 The entire letter appears at:



2.  [Canada’s] Centre for Addiction and Mental Health letter urges Canadian negotiators to: continue to exclude alcohol from all of Canada’s GATS requests and offers; ensure that GATS Domestic Regulation restrictions do not apply to alcohol regulation

 Excerpts of Nov. 25, 2006 letter to Canada’s Minister of Health Tony Clement and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade David Emerson from Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Executive Vice President and General Counsel Gail Czukar:


“We are writing to express our concern regarding the United States and European Union “plurilateral” request on Distribution Services in negotiations on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). [...] If accepted by Canada, this commitment would have serious implications for alcohol policy.”


“An additional threat to health-based alcohol policy is the proposed negotiation of new restrictions on GATS Domestic Regulation. These rules, if agreed to, could affect many alcohol-related measures.”


“It is essential that the federal government of Canada recognize the status of alcohol as a unique and potentially harmful commodity in its international trade agreements and ongoing negotiations. We ask that Canada maintain its September 2003 commitment to exclude alcohol-related services from all requests and offers it makes in negotiations on GATS. In the event that the US-EU request is accepted, protective limitations should be made to exempt alcohol services from Canada’s commitment. In addition, we recommend that the federal government ensure that any restrictions on Domestic Regulation that are agreed to do not apply to health-based alcohol regulation.


3.  New article:  “International trade agreements challenge tobacco and alcohol control policies”

 Drug and Alcohol Review (November 2006), 25, 567 – 579:
International trade agreements challenge tobacco and alcohol control policies

DONALD W. ZEIGLER, Office of Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Abuse Prevention, American Medical Association, Chicago, IL, USA

Abstract: This report reviews aspects of trade agreements that challenge tobacco and alcohol control policies. Trade agreements reduce barriers, increase competition, lower prices and promote consumption. Conversely, tobacco and alcohol control measures seek to reduce access and consumption, raise prices and restrict advertising and promotion in order to reduce health and social problems. However, under current and pending international agreements, negotiated by trade experts without public health input, governments and corporations may challenge these protections as constraints on trade. Advocates must recognise the inherent conflicts between free trade and public health and work to exclude alcohol and tobacco from trade agreements. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has potential to protect tobacco policies and serve as a model for alcohol control.

For a link to this article, see:


We are grateful to CPATH for bringing this article to our attention on the Globalization and Health listserv, and apologize for any cross-posting.


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