Monday, October 24, 2005

Libraries and Trade Liberalization Pathfinder

The Canadian Library Association recently published a GATS and Libraries Pathfinder. It focuses on public libraries but the discussion of international trade rules should be of interest to anyone involved in libraries.

GATS stands for the General Agreement on Trade in Services, one of the major World Trade Organization agreements that seeks to liberalize the international trade in services.

Overall, the association's pathfinder is opposed to GATS but it does an honest job of pointing to official resources, thus also giving the pro-WTO point of view a fair hearing.

According to the introduction, "the impact that these agreements could have on libraries is far from clear: optimists (typically government bodies) claim that the language in the agreements and accompanying commitments show that public libraries are safe from free trade rules. Cynics (including most librarians), however, are less certain; GATS rules could allow other countries to
challenge public funding for libraries. TRIPS [Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights] rules are already changing how we define intellectual property: the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act was drafted to make the United States TRIPS-compliant. For the purposes of this document, the focus is on the GATS... At present, Canada has made no commitment of library services to GATS rules – nor has it granted the sector any specific protection. The United States government, on the other hand, has chosen to commit libraries to GATS rules while reassuring the American Library Association that 'public' library services are safe."

The pathfinder includes print and web resources and is broken down into the following sections:
  • 1. Introduction to the World Trade Organization (WTO)
    1.1 History and Who’s Who
    1.2 Key WTO Agreements (and Links to Texts)
    1.3 Dispute Resolution Process
    1.4 How to Research and Assess Canada’s Sectoral Commitments to WTO
    1.5 Is this service covered? An un-nuanced guide to deciding on your own.
    1.6 The WTO and Culture, Environment, and Public Services
    1.7 WTO Criticism and Activism
  • 2. Introduction to the GATS
    2.1 GATS for Beginners
    2.2 Key Provisions: Most-Favoured-Nation, National Treatment, Market Access
    2.3 GATS and Municipal Governments
  • 3. GATS and libraries
    3.1 Introduction to the Impact of the GATS on Library Services
    3.2 Classification of Library Services
    3.3 In-Depth Analysis
    3.4 Library Association Response to the GATS
    3.4 (a) International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA)
    3.4 (b) European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations
    3.4 (c) Canadian Library Association (CLA)
    3.4 (d) British Columbia Library Association (BCLA)
    3.4 (e) American Library Association (ALA)
    3.5 Public Education: A Close Relative to Public Libraries
  • 4. Introduction to the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
    (TRIPS) agreement
  • 5. Other International Trade Organizations

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:30 pm


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