Today, as Ministers meet to further a controversial and little known proposed Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) on the sidelines of the annual Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) meeting, Wikileaks released a trove of negotiating texts, including annexes covering a wide range of issues on domestic regulation, financial services, air and maritime transportation, electronic commerce, transparency, telecommunications, professional services, and the natural movement of persons (called “Mode 4” in trade agreements).
The TISA negotiating texts are supposed to remain secret for five years after the deal is finalized or abandoned. Today, the secrecy charade has collapsed, and the risks to Wall Street oversight are exposed for all to see.
“The secrecy charade has collapsed. TISA members trying to keep their publics in the dark as to the negative implications of the corporate TISA for financial stability, public safety, and elected officials’ democratic regulatory jurisdiction have been exposed to the light of day, in the largest leak of secret trade negotiations texts in history,” said Deborah James of the OWINFS network.
The leak throws further fuel on the fire ignited by the debate in the United States over the controversial Fast Track legislation, also known asTrade Promotion Authority (TPA). Critics like U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who played a crucial role in leading the post-crisis regulation of the financial sector in the U.S., has already warned that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) risk undermining even the limited changes achieved to restore financial stability. After President Obama called her worrying “wrong”, analysts in Bloomberg, The Hill, and other publications concurred with the Senator. However, their debate focused on the speculated impacts of a potential TPP, the financial services text of which has yet to be made public; with this leak, the dangers to financial stability of a financial services chapter in the proposed TISA are no longer speculative. (The 2015 Fast Track bill specifies that Fast Track procedures will apply to “an agreement with respect to international trade in services entered into with WTO [World Trade Organization] members” – the TISA.)
Trade unionists in Uruguay have been engaged in a high-stakes battle with pro-corporate government officials as to whether the nation should participate in the agreement. The leaked telecommunications annex, among others, demonstrate potentially grave impacts for deregulation of state owned enterprises like their national telephone company. The leak of the documents today provides direct ammunition for the “No to TISA” side.
Analysis of the air transport services annex by the International Transport Workers’ Federation notes that “[i]n the TISA document there is virtually no discussion on safety standards. .. . Over the last decade outsourcing and offshoring aircraft maintenance has been on the rise and there are scientific studies pointing out the possible negative implications of this for current and future aviation safety.” The TISA proposed TISA annex states that its rules would take precedence over the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which has far more credibility and expertise on the issue.
Analysis of the text on so-called “transparency” states that “‘[t]ransparency’ in this TISA text means ensuring that commercial interests, especially but not only transnational corporations, can access and influence government decisions that affect their interests – rights and opportunities that may not be available to local businesses or to national citizens.”
Preliminary analysis notes that the goal of domestic regulation texts is to remove domestic policies, laws and regulations that make it harder for transnational corporations to sell their services in other countries (actually or virtually), to dominate their local suppliers, and to maximize their profits and withdraw their investment, services and profits at will. Since this requires restricting the right of governments to regulate in the public interest, the corporate lobby is using TISA to bypass elected officials in order to apply a set of across-the-board rules that would never be approved on their own by democratic governments.
The documents show that the TISA will impact even non-participating countries. The TISA is exposed as a developed countries’ corporate wish lists for services which seeks to bypass resistance from the global South to this agenda inside the WTO, and to secure and agreement on servcies without confronting the continued inequities on agriculture, intellectual property, cotton subsidies, and many other issues.
This leak backs warning from global civil society about the privatization and deregulation impacts of a potential TISA since our first letter on the issue, endorsed by 345 organizations from across the globe, in September 2013. At that time, OWINFS argued that “[t]he TISA negotiations largely follow the corporate agenda of using “trade” agreements to bind countries to an agenda of extreme liberalization and deregulation in order to ensure greater corporate profits at the expense of workers, farmers, consumers and the environment. The proposed agreement is the direct result of systematic advocacy by transnational corporations in banking, energy, insurance, telecommunications, transportation, water, and other services sectors, working through lobby groups like the US Coalition of Service Industries (USCSI) and the European Services Forum (ESF).” Today’s leaks prove the network’s arguments beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Today’s leak follows others, including a June 2014 Wikileaks revelation of a previous version of the Financial Services secret text, the December 2014 leak of a U.S. proposal on cross-border data flows, technology transfer, and net neutrality, which raised serious concerns about the protection of data privacy in the wake of the Snowden revelations.
The TISA is currently being negotiated among 24 parties (counting the EU as one) with the aim of extending the coverage of scope of the existing General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) in the WTO. However, even worse than the opaque talks at the WTO, the TISA negotiations are being conducted in complete secrecy – until now. Public Services International (PSI) global union federation published the first critique, TISA vs Public Services, by Scott Sinclair, in March 2014, and PSI and OWINFS jointly published The Really Good Friends of Transnational Corporations Agreement report on Domestic Regulation by Ellen Gould in September 2014. A factsheet on the TISA can be found here and more information on the TISA can be found here.