Across the world there is outrage at what is being decided in secret on our behalves. A huge leak of documents, marked with the opinions and edits of negotiators from many different countries, from the TiSA (Trade in Services Agreement) has appeared on Wikileaks.
The first lesson here is the obvious secrecy that our governments have attempted to hoist upon these negotiations. TiSA is an essential part of the latest round of ‘trade agreements’, a huge stage of the neo-liberal project that seeks to deregulate, marketise and decrease state influence in every sector of commerce.
Incredibly, the texts leaked yesterday were intended to remain secret until five years after the implementation of TiSA, such is the agreed need amongst our governments to keep the populations of participating countries in the dark over TiSA negotiations. The obvious question here is why? Any previous reason proffered in the defence of such secrecy has been the effect public knowledge of negotiations would have been upon the negotiations themselves. There is no reason for such a long embargo, other than the public outcry this could cause. As Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said:
“These leaks reinforce the concerns of campaigners about the threat that TISA poses to vital public services. There is no mandate for such a far-reaching programme of liberalisation in services. It’s a dark day for democracy when we are dependent on leaks like this for the general public to be informed of the radical restructuring of regulatory frameworks that our governments are proposing.”
The focus of opposition and activism in the US and Pacific region has primarily been on the Transpacific Partnership (TPP), and in Europe on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). These agreements have, thanks to the efforts of campaigners, been dragged into a more public arena – although not nearly enough, we have a fair enough assessment of the contents. TiSA has been different in that the secrecy surrounding it has been comparatively impenetrable – until now.
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TiSA is a geographically wide-ranging agreement between the US, EU and twenty-two other countries. As with TPP and TTIP, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa) are not included.
We’ve not had the time to fully assess the 17 documents that have been leaked but initial inspection from organisations who’ve focused on specific areas tells us we have every reason to be concerned with the deal:
- The International Transport Workers’ Federation sound the alarm over safety in air transport services. TiSA rules, being written by trade negotiators are set to take precedence over rules upheld by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a United Nations agency which has incomparable expertise and a proven track record in this quarter.
- The New Zealand Public Services Association have issued a call for their government to stop this move to abandon public control of services including public health, childcare, water, broadcasting and the postal service.
- The Our World Is Not For Sale network have given the texts a quick reading and point out that the domestic regulation texts aim to “remove domestic policies, laws and regulations that make it harder for trans national corporations to sell their services in other countries”.
The protection of data has been a big concern in TTIP, and these concerns are magnified in TiSA. Professor Jane Kelsey, trade expert from the university of Auckland said:
"[TiSA] could limit or even prevent governments from requiring firms to hold data locally, and allow them to choose to store it offshore in countries with minimal privacy protection and intrusive spying laws."
When considered with the provisions of TTIP, these rules will effectively give such enormous powers to corporations, that the boardrooms of big business could have more direct power over our lives than the local council chamber or even the supposed corridors of ‘power’ in Westminster.
These leaks serve to remind us of the severity of the threat posed in the latest round of trade deals, they should act as a wake up call to all who value public services, regulations that protect safety and workers’ right and data privacy.
The future could possibly be a chilling one unless we organize a vibrant resistance. Now.