September 19, 2008

Centurion asks the World Trade Organization to weigh in on Trade Dispute with Canada

Health Care and World Trade

By Melvin J. Howard

Geneva Switzerland is one of my favourite places in the world. Taking a scenic white table cloth train ride in the country side is a breathtaking event. Now Switzerland has another point of interest for me it is where the World Trade Organization is located. I am calling on the WTO to wade in on our Trade dispute with Canada. In arguing to keep health care off the table Canada claims to have exemptions on their public health care system. At the same time they demand the right to export their own health care services and not allowing any imports is that sending a message of double standard? I think so Canada has registered health insurance at the World Trade Organization as a financial service. If that is so my US insurance partners should be able to enter this market as well. Services such as labs, food services, janitorial services, accounting, data processing, telecommunications, hospital administration in the form of management consulting, and pharmacare. All are being done on a private basis. Private companies are already in the health business in Canada which further weakens the government's position on medicare. The World Trade Organization allows governments to exempt any service provided "in the exercise of government authority," as long as such services are not also available commercially. In other words, if a service is exclusively provided by the government, It is exempt. But if that service is provided through a mix of both Government and private interests, it is open to the full force of the World Trade Organization and NAFTA. Health care is such a service. A lot of the health care system in Canada is, in fact, privately run. Doctors' offices operate as private businesses. So do the labs in many hospitals, after-hours clinics, dental offices, homecare providers and nursing homes. Even the hospitals themselves are often private, non-profit corporations. This is a mix system, and therefore subject to The World Trade Tribunal.