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CAUT Bulletin Archives

November 1999

Trade Talks - Risk to Education

The World Trade Organization's third Ministerial Conference will be held Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, 1999, in Seattle, Washington. It will launch the next major world trade negotiations due to start early in 2000. Ministers and other senior officials from more than 150 governments are expected to attend. A major priority will be planning for the renegotiation of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

Representatives of nongovernmental organizations from around the world will also be in attendance, including CAUT president Bill Graham and executive director Jim Turk.

"We are concerned Canada will include education in the renegotiation of the GATS," said Graham. "The gathering will give us a chance to talk with education and social sector representatives from many countries and plan how to protect public education."

Turk explained that if Canada were to commit fully to bringing educational services under existing GATS rules, it would mean that:

  • foreign educational service providers would be guaranteed access to the "Canadian educational market" including the rights to invest within Canada (commercial presence), to provide services to Canadians from abroad (cross-border supply), to provide services to Canadians travelling abroad (consumption abroad), and to send educators/salespersons into Canada on a temporary basis (presence of natural persons). The foreign service provider could choose the "mode of supply," or combination thereof, that best suits its
  • governments would have to give foreign educational service providers the same grants, financial assistance and other advantages that they provide to like Canadian educational service providers. Unlike NAFTA and the MAI, the GATS covers "subsidies";
  • governments would have to give degree-granting authority to foreign educational service providers and to ensure that non governmental bodies exercising delegated governmental authority (such as teachers colleges or professional associations) recognize degrees and diplomas granted by foreign educational service providers, including for-profit foreign providers;
  • residency requirements, for example that a majority of members of university board of governors are Canadian residents or that first preference for teaching positions be given to qualified Canadians, would have to be eliminated;
  • governments would have to provide student loans, bursaries and other financial aid to students attending foreign educational institutions or taking from such institutions on the same basis as students attending Canadian institutions;
  • preferential tax treatment for Canadian schools, universities, colleges and other educational institutions vis-à-vis foreign educational service providers would be eliminated. Unlike NAFTA and the MAI, the GATS covers taxation measures.
  • public grants or tax incentives for research and development by Canadians at Canadian educational institutions would be problematic as would any requirement that Canadians be given preferential access to the benefits of that publicly supported research and development. (Again the impact of GATS covering "subsidies.")

The latest information on the WTO conference is available at