As more communities are increasingly successful in their efforts to limit “big box” store expansion and destructive retail practices through transparent and accountable measures at the local level, Wal-Mart and other retailers have pursued a strategy of global preemption that threatens to undermine these local laws. In 1994, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) failed to safeguard local authority over zoning and land use by signing up retail, hotel and restaurant services without making exemptions for land use laws, as many other WTO signatory countries did for their local land use laws. Among the types of measures that could be threatened under the GATS are land use ordinances that limit the height or size of buildings, establish hours of operation rules, limit development along coastlines and require an economic impact analysis for large retailers.
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For information on how the GATS can affect your local zoning laws, please contact Sarah Edelman at (202) 454-5193.