Back door must be slam shut on secretive TiSA deal

Back door must be slam shut on secretive TiSA deal

While the Trade in Services Agreement, or TiSA, is currently on ice, now is not the time to freeze opposition to the secretive trade deal. That was a key takeaway from the UNI-organized panel “Services Globalization and the Future of Work: TiSA and the WTO held at the World Trade Organization’s Public Forum this week.

Led by a cadre of lobbyists calling themselves the Really Good Friends of Services, TiSA is being negotiated in secret by 23 countries, including the EU. This group includes some of the worst “friends” to working people including Walmart. It aims to remove all current barriers to trade and fully liberalize markets for services—even ones that do not exist yet.

If signed, TiSA would move regulations out of public, democratic spaces by severely restricting governments’ right to enact protections. It will lead to a rapid race to the bottom in labour standards as well as subject local and national companies to fierce, if not devastating, competition from large multinational corporations.

Negotiations were put on hold in 2016, but many of its most dangerous provisions are seeping into other trade agreements, and negotiations on similar proposals are also being discussed in the WTO.

Jane Kelsey, Professor of Law University of Auckland and author of our report on TiSA, told the near-capacity crowd at the session that the closed-door nature of negotiations is a symptom of “rich countries making self-serving rules in secret because they can’t do it by consensus.”

“TiSA not only needs to stay on ice,” she said, but “members of the WTO need to say that this process and this outcome are unacceptable.”

Ken Ukaoha, President National Association of Nigerian Traders, echoed this sentiment, and confirms UNIs analysis, by saying that there was a reason why the deal’s architects where trying to bring this in through the “back door.” TiSA would be disastrous for developing countries and widen inequality.
“Can TiSA guarantee job creation capacity? Capital flight is an albatross to developing countries, but does TiSA provide an answer? Is TiSA consistent with developing nations’ trade policies? Is there an opportunity to attract investment under TiSA? Does TiSA provide any assurance we can protect domestic laws?” he asked. “I think not.”

Lydia Schneider Hausser, Deputy, Grand Council of Geneva, explained why her city and other Swiss municipal governments have declared themselves TiSA Free Cities. “TiSA is an attack on public services, and becomes an adversary to the common good. This deal would deprive us, as elected officials, of the right to regulate future services, and destroy protections already in place. This is why Geneva will not allow these types of agreements to impinge upon the public affairs of our city.”

Director of Policy and Governance for Public Services International Daniel Bertossa also warned that TiSA will lead to the degradation of public services. “We get told don’t worry about public services they are safe,” he said, “but its clearly not the case. TiSA would take necessary services—power, healthcare—out of the public’s control in ways that would be very difficult to re-municipalize,”

Helmut Scholz, Member of the European Parliament, concluded the session by stressing that “any regulations of the future must be made in the service of the public and of the people. We should demand of our national delegations and leaders so that these issues are negotiated transparently.”

That is what we must do to make sure that workers—and everyday citizens—are represented at the negotiating table.

UNI will be present at the WTO Ministerial in Buenos Aires in December 2017.

Listen to the whole session here