Greenpeace Netherlands exposed the threats to democracy and climate action contained within the little-known Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) on Tuesday with new leaks divulging several chapters of the clandestine global trade agreement.
"It's a sad day for democracy when ordinary people are dependent on leaks to learn about the far-reaching consequences of toxic trade deals that are being cooked up behind closed doors," said Nick Dearden, head of the U.K.-based Global Justice Now.
And TISA is perhaps the least well-known and most highly protected of the imminent agreements: "Somehow TISA is also even more secret than the notoriously covert CETA, TTIP and TPP deals, with parties unable to release details of negotiations until five years after it has taken effect," Greenpeace observes.
These latest leaks "confirm what civil society groups, trade unions, and consumer watch dogs across the world have been warning against, that TISA is a turbo-charged privatization and deregulation deal that will enormously benefit corporations at the expense of ordinary people and democracy itself," Dearden added.
Indeed, the leaks from the highly secretive deal—currently being negotiated by 50 nations around the world—affirm that with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on the ropes, other such "democracy-wrecking" deals are looming.
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"The deal, a spiritual and practical sibling of the much-maligned TTIP and TPP free trade agreements, is designed to drive deregulation across the vast global services sector," observes Greenpeace, "increasing international trade in everything from banking to energy services."
In its analysis (pdf) of the TISA leaks, Greenpeace explains that the deal's emphasis on deregulation presents a grave threat to countries' ability to adhere to the terms agreed upon in the Paris climate accord:
Countries that sign up to TISA will be required to lock-in liberalization and could be prevented from rolling back failed policies due of two key clauses—the 'standstill' and 'ratchet' clauses.
The standstill clause freezes the extent of liberalization in certain sectors, which means the markets of TISA state can never be less liberalized than they were at the time they signed the deal.
Meanwhile the ratchet clause—which sometimes appears in other trade agreements—stops countries from reintroducing trade barriers that had been previously and unilaterally removed.
Together these two clauses undermine the ability of governments to ever reverse the liberalization of services, even if elected on a mandate to do it. That means they could be stopped from testing liberalizing policies, since there would be no way to reversing them if things went awry.
In order to make the objectives of the Paris Agreement a reality and in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions to the point where the worst impacts of climate change can be avoided, governments must be allowed to interfere and use all policy tools available to them. Arbitrarily locking governments into deregulation could have hugely negative impacts on their capacity to implement the kind of climate policies we need to stay within 1.5 degrees.
Greenpeace also notes that while going "[w]idely unnoticed by the public, TISA could be finalized by the end of this year."
"We now know that TISA will undermine COP21, further deregulate the financial sector, stop failed privatizations being brought back into public hands, and undermine data privacy laws," commented Rosa Pavanelli, general secretary of Public Service International. "What else are our governments keeping secret from us?"