Fifty-two-nation Trade in Services Agreement uses trade regulations ‘as a smokescreen to limit citizen rights,’ says labor leader
Days ahead of another round of secret international negotiations, WikiLeaks on Wednesday released what it described as “a modern journalistic holy grail: the secret Core Text for the largest ‘trade deal’ in history.”
That deal is the Trade in Services Agreement, or TISA, currently being negotiated by 52 nations that together account for two-thirds of global GDP. Those nations are the United States, the 28 members of the European Union, and 23 other countries, including Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, Taiwan, and Israel. According to WikiLeaks, TISA “is the largest component of the United States’ strategic neoliberal ‘trade’ treaty triumvirate,” which also includes the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Pact (TTIP).
“Together, the three treaties form not only a new legal order shaped for transnational corporations, but a new economic ‘grand enclosure,’ which excludes China and all other BRICS countries,” declared WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange in a press statement. What’s more, it adds, “[a]ll three treaties have been subject to stringent criticism for the lack of transparency and public consultation in their negotiation processes.”
The texts published Wednesday cover everything from financial services to telecommunications to migrant labor protections.
Overall, the leak provides further evidence of how “a self-selected group of mainly rich countries” plans to “bypass other governments in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and rewrite its services agreement in the interests of their corporations,” reads an expert analysis penned by University of Auckland law professor Jane Kelsey. “It also makes the new risks from TISA to governments’ right to regulate in their national interest much clearer.”
Or, as the Our World is Not For Sale network said in a statement: “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 an agreement on services without confronting the continued inequities on agriculture, intellectual property, cotton subsidies, and many other issues.” The group has been sounding the alarm on TISA since 2013.
As Common Dreams reported last month, previous leaks demonstrated TISA is aimed at further privatizing and deregulating vital services, from transportation to healthcare, with a potentially devastating impact for people of the countries involved in the deal, and the world more broadly.
For example, the Government Procurement (GP) annex, which covers purchasing by all government agencies of services such as construction or infrastructure maintenance, “creates an international legal regime which aims to deregulate and privatize the supply of services—which account for the majority of the economy across TISA countries,” according to WikiLeaks.
In her analysis of that section, Third World Network legal adviser Sanya Reid Smith states that the GP text aims to “undermine the deliberate government policies of a number of developed and developing TISA countries which try to promote their domestic services companies and hence local employment including for Indigenous peoples, etc. through GP laws and policies.”
Another section leaked Wednesday is TISA’s Transparency Annex—but the “transparency” covered in the text has nothing to do with increasing public awareness about the corporate-friendly trade deal.
In fact, WikiLeaks explains, “[t]he draft Annex aims to make governments more transparent to global commercial actors, creating obligations to notify and consult with transnational corporations on decisions and measures which may affect their interests.”
“There is deep irony whenever governments make commitments to ‘transparency’ in contemporary pro-corporate treaties that are negotiated under conditions of extraordinary secrecy,” the WikiLeaks analysis reads.
“Transparency” 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.
Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), spoke to that irony in a statement published alongside the TISA leak. “Once again WikiLeaks reveals what we cannot learn from our own government, a government that defaults to prefer giant trade deals that effect generations of Americans shrouded in secrecy until they are virtually adopted,” he said.
Referencing the Trade Promotion Authority bill signed by President Barack Obama on Monday—which will allow Obama to ram the TISA, TPP, and TTIP through Congress with minimal input from lawmakers—Cohen added: “Today’s leaks…reveal once again how dangerous Fast Track authority is when it comes to protecting citizen rights vs. corporate rights. This TISA text again favors privatization over public services, limits governmental action on issues ranging from safety to the environment using trade as a smokescreen to limit citizen rights… TISA is as big a blow to our rights and freedom as the Trans Pacific Partnership and in both cases our governments secrecy is the key enabler.”
Deborah James of the OWINFS network doubled-down on that sentiment: “Given the added dangers of the recently-approved Fast Track provisions which would apply to a potential TISA, we call on governments to abandon negotiations on this corporate wish list and focus on strengthening public interest regulation and the democratic process.”
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