TiSA: the threat to public services by the backdoor

11 Sep 2014, keywords :

Following a hearing on TTIP in the Luxemburgish Parliament, CESI President Romain Wolff sees TTIP as a distraction to another important trade agreement, the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). Here, Mr Wolff warns of a threat to public services by the back door.

TiSA: the threat to public services by the backdoor

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement (TTIP), currently negotiated between the EU and the United States, is on everyone’s lips, but the negotiations are conducted in secret, behind closed doors, with no transparency.

It is this approach from negotiators which opens the door for all kinds of speculation. Therefore, it is not surprising that large parts of Luxembourgish civil society, including the CGFP, consider this agreement to be critical.

The “TTIP platform” hearing in the Luxemburgish Parliament in July shows how keen negotiating parties are to clarify ambiguous statements. This has certainly not been successful.

The same transparency is evident in negotiations to another agreement, the TiSA – the Trade in Services Agreement. Having begun at the initiative of the USA and Australia in early 2013, the European Parliament has given a mandate to the Commission on 4 July 2013 to participate in these negotiations.

The purpose of TiSA is the further dismantling of legal barriers concerning international trade in services. An important common denominator with TTIP consists in so far as the draft agreement, just like all other working documents, remains secret. Only the official final text will be made public. Transparency? Forget it!

In Luxembourg, there was neither public debate nor a parliamentary question to date. Solely at the public hearing on TTIP on 11 July in the Luxemburgish Parliament was it made aware that public services would not be included under the TTIP negotiations, but rather in TiSA.

One thing seems clear: the arguments against TTIP are not identical in all respects with those against TiSA, however they overlap in so many places.

Although the Luxembourg government has not yet taken an official position on TiSA, and although, according to “Le Monde”  (9 July 2014), the European Commission assures us that public services would not be affected, alleged “secret” documents use a completely different language, drawing a very different picture. Acceleration of the liberalisation of public services in unprecedented dimensions is far from impossible.

To prevent this from happening, TiSA must, as soon as possible, be discussed publicly, so that we are not confronted with a “fait accompli” and faced with a done deal before it is too late.

The author is President of CESI and Secretary of the CGFP in Luxemburg