How the Toxic Trade Deal You've Never Heard Of Could Kill the Climate

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How the Toxic Trade Deal You've Never Heard Of Could Kill the Climate

TiSA seeks to place 'corporate handcuffs' on government attempts to steer away from fossil fuels, says Global Justice Now

"If TISA was passed it would massively reduce the ability of national governments to make the sort of rational choices about energy production that would move us further towards a low carbon economy," said Nick Dearden of Global Justice Now. (Photo: Senterpartiet/flickr/cc)

As world leaders attempt to hammer out a global climate deal in Paris this week, trade officials are meeting in Geneva to continue negotiations on the mammoth Trade in Services Agreement (TISA)—and according to secret documents published Thursday, "the objectives of each could not be more diametrically opposed."

The latest publication by WikiLeaks exposes new threats from TISA, the least well-known of the so-called Big Three "strategic neoliberal trade deals being advanced by the Obama administration."

"Big oil services companies, water services multinationals, tar sands pipeline companies, exporters of fossil fuels and other corporate polluters are beneficiaries of TISA. President Obama and other heads of state are their willing handmaidens."
—Erich Pica, Friends of the Earth

As with the other two—the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)—its contents bode poorly for environmental and climate safeguards, according to expert analyses published alongside the documents. 

TISA, currently being negotiated by the U.S., EU and 22 other countries that account for two-thirds of global GDP, would be the largest trade treaty of its kind in history and takes aim at the world's massive service industries.

According to World Bank figures, "services"—an umbrella term that covers everything from package delivery to telecommunications to finance to energy production—comprise 75 percent of the EU economy, 80 percent of the U.S. economy, and the majority of the global economy.

The leaked chapters, or annexes, that went online Thursday have to do with energy, environmental, and freight transport services in particular. All three contain troubling language or provisions.

'Free Fracking Agreement'

In his analysis of the Annex on Environmental Services, Friends of the Earth trade analyst Bill Waren warns that "[i]n the alleged interest of making trade easier, environmental regulations are at risk of being 'harmonized down' to the lowest common denominator, and public services of an environmentally-sensitive nature are in danger of being privatized."

And the International Transport Workers Federation's (ITF) assessment of the Annex on Road Freight Transport and Related Logistical Services is no less damning, observing that this chapter joins other draft texts published by WikiLeaks "to form an overarching trade liberalization agenda, fragmenting the trucking industry, opening up sensitive areas of the transport sector to international competition, and contributing to the ongoing privatization of public services, undercutting workers' rights, public health and safety, and the ability of national governments to plan and direct their own industrial and infrastructural development."

For example, the ITF analysis reads:

Eastern European drivers and those from further afield who work in the EU are already paid indecently low wages (because they live and work in one country but are paid according to their home country), are working extremely long hours and are living in insanitary conditions at truck stops and in parking lots across mainland Europe. This is not a situation that needs liberalization – nor does it need replication. Rather it needs better regulation, road safety oversight, health and environmental oversight and proper enforcement. The ITF believes this Annex would likely create similar situations elsewhere in the world.

Meanwhile, the Energy Related Services Annex Proposal: Questions and Answers document indicates TISA would "recklessly undermine urgent work worldwide to reduce dangerous carbon emissions, create clean energy jobs, and increase energy security for economies everywhere," according to Victor Menotti of the International Forum on Globalization.

Denouncing TISA as the "Free Fracking Agreement," Menotti says that under the deal, "popular policies like requiring public input for big projects, approving building in sensitive areas, or hiring local labor, are all stealthily made vulnerable to being attacked."

'Corporate Handcuffs'

Analyses like these are further evidence of how "[t]he raft of free trade agreements that are currently being pushed pose a critical threat to our ability to address the climate crisis," Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said on Thursday in response to the leaks.

"If we want to fight climate change, we must also stop TISA and the other toxic trade deals that are being cooked up behind closed doors."
—Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now

"Regardless of the outcomes of the Paris climate talks, if TISA was passed it would massively reduce the ability of national governments to make the sort of rational choices about energy production that would move us further towards a low carbon economy," Dearden continued.

"TISA seeks to place corporate handcuffs on our governments at a time when they need as much flexibility as possible to steer us away from fossil fuel dependency," he said. "If we want to fight climate change, we must also stop TISA and the other toxic trade deals that are being cooked up behind closed doors."

Added Friends of the Earth president Erich Pica:

It is hypocritical for President Obama and other leaders of developed economies to meet in Paris to address climate change when their trade ministers are secretly crafting a Trade in Services Agreement which would undermine initiatives to cut carbon emissions....Big oil services companies, water services multinationals, tar sands pipeline companies, exporters of fossil fuels and other corporate polluters are beneficiaries of TISA. President Obama and other heads of state are their willing handmaidens.

Earlier this year, Uruguay "created a blueprint of how to beat these corporate-driven agreements" by withdrawing from TiSA negotiations, as Viviana Barreto and Sam Cossar-Gilbert, both from Friends of the Earth, wrote at the time.

"Building a strong coalition of social movements and non-profits against TISA enabled a popular opposition to the agreement to grow rapidly across diverse sections of society, from doctors to train drivers," they said, urging other countries to follow Uruguay's lead.

The most recent TISA documents were leaked just one day after the Sierra Club released a similarly scathing assessment of the TPP's "panoply of threats" to climate and the environment. And earlier this week, an analysis by GRAIN explored how "a new generation of trade deals will amplify emissions from the food system."

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