In Advance of Next Round of Negotiations on the Proposed “Trade in Services Agreement (TISA),” Wikileaks Releases Updated Secret Documents

For Immediate Release

In Advance of Next Round of Negotiations on the Proposed “Trade in Services Agreement (TISA),” Wikileaks Releases Updated Secret Documents

WASHINGTON - Today, Wikileaks released the most updated draft texts on the proposed TISA, along with substantive analysis, on each of four cross-cutting annexes: Domestic Regulation, the “Movement of Natural Persons,” Transparency, and a previously-unreleased annex on Government Procurement. In addition they released the Core Text with accompanying analysis and the agenda for the negotiations next week. The negotiating texts are supposed to remain secret for five years after the deal is finalized or abandoned.

The documents, along with the analysis, highlight the way that the TISA responds to major corporate lobbies’ desire to deregulate services, even beyond the existing World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. “This leak exposes the corporate aim to use TISA to further limit the public interest regulatory capacity of democratically elected governments by imposing disciplines on domestic issues from government purchasing and immigration to licensing and certification standards for professionals and business operations, not to mention the regulatory process itself,” said Deborah James of the OWINFS network, which has coordinated global civil society opposition to the proposed TISA since its inception.

The Agenda indicates that other services will come under the jurisdiction of the proposed TISA - including energy services, environmental services, delivery services, and “patient mobility.”

“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,” James added.

“The Annex on Domestic Regulation is a serious threat to regulations that people really care about – like what kind of development is allowed in their neighbourhood or the standards for hospital care. Negotiators are using the excuse that these regulations are somehow related to trade in order to create a vast array of restrictions on the right to regulate,” said Ellen Gould, a Canadian - based consultant on trade agreements whose research accompanies the Domestic Regulation Annex. The existence of an annex restricting even non-discriminatory domestic regulations belies the claims by some TISA proponents that the agreement is only about promoting transparency and tackling discriminatory laws.

The existence of a Transparency annex in a secret trade agreement is itself ironic. The annex shows that corporations are pushing far beyond how a normal person understands “transparency.” The sections on “prior notification of new measures” would mandate that any measure (including laws, regulations, agency rulings, etcetera) must be published in advance, with a “reasonable opportunity” for corporations to comment on them to the governmental entity. But it goes much further; the rationale for the measure must be included, and governments must set up an avenue by which it must respond to the comments. Some countries are even pushing for a mandatory “judicial or administrative review of decisions,” if corporation disagrees with a proposed measure. This Annex, then, proposes a direct pathway for foreign corporate input into the domestic policymaking process of parliamentary and also local elected officials.

Today’s publication includes a previously unpublished annex on state purchasing, which, according to analysis published by Wikileaks provided by Sanya Reid Smith of the Third World Network, “would require extreme opening of services government procurement (GP) of TISA countries, beyond the level required by the optional rules at the WTO or in free trade agreements involving the EU, U.S. or others. If accepted, this proposal is predicted to undermine programs in developed and developing TISA countries that facilitate development, help create local jobs and assist disadvantaged communities including indigenous peoples and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).”

The Annex on the “Movement of Natural Persons,” called Mode 4, makes crystal clear that immigration policy would be an integral part of the TISA, notwithstanding certain governments’ protestations to the contrary. A labor lawyer with IDEALS in the Philippines, Tony Salvador said that “we oppose trade agreements that include migrant workers, rather than just bona fide service suppliers, as migrants should instead be protected by the domestic labor and employment laws of the host country where they work. Having the status of a worker/employee guarantees that she/he is also covered by ILO Conventions,” referring to the International Labor Organization. He added, “however, the host country should maintain its prerogative to pass and implement immigration and national security laws, and apply them to both migrant workers and foreign service suppliers, even as the home country of the migrants may continue to have laws that protect migrants from recruiters and their purported employers in the home country.”

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 an agreement on services without confronting the continued inequities on agriculture, intellectual property, cotton subsidies, and many other issues.

Background Information

This leak justifies warnings 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 (available in English and Spanish), which raised serious concerns about the protection of data privacy in the wake of the Snowden revelations; the February 5, 2015 release of a background paper promoting health tourism in the TISA (available in English, French, German, and Spanish); and last month’s Wikileaks publication of 17 documents on the TISA.

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. 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 at http://ourworldisnotforsale.org/en/themes/3085.

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The “Our World is not for Sale” (OWINFS) network is a loose grouping of organizations, activists and social movements worldwide fighting the current model of corporate globalization embodied in global trading system. OWINFS is committed to a sustainable, socially just, democratic and accountable multilateral trading system.

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