Authentic friends of the transnationals

TISA will facilitate greater privatization of public services; moreover, it is designing a complete deregulation of private services.


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The Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) being negotiated in secret by 50 countries, including Mexico, surpasses everything that we have seen to date in international agreements in terms of the pursuit of unrestricted benefits for transnational companies, against the public good and interest. The term "services" in this context includes everything from water and food to health, education, research, communications, mail, transport, telecommunications, electronic commerce, wholesale and retail sales, financial services and much more; it even includes the misnamed "environmental services" related to forests, hydrological systems and other functions of ecosystems.  Even migrants are included in the treaty as supposed "service providers"! The service sector is in addition the largest employer in countries of high and middle incomes, and the impacts are enormous against labour and union rights.


The negotiations and texts under discussion are secret, but Wikileaks, through media such as La Jornada has followed them since 2014, the most recent version in July of 2015 (http://wikileaks.jornada, Without these leaks, we would not have known what is being discussed since 2012, in spite of the fact that if the agreement is concluded, it will have widespread consequences on the lives of everyone in the participating countries and beyond, since the negotiating block will want to impose this framework on the rest of countries.


The TISA involves a package of various commercial treaties in negotiation in which a group of countries, headed by the United States that seeks to consolidate the market for its businesses and its sphere of commercial, financial and political power. The most significant are the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TTIP and TPP). The first is between the United States and Europe (informally called the economic NATO) and the second between the United States and various countries of the Pacific.


The broadest of them, both thematically and numerically, is TISA, in which some 50 countries are now involved, among them the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and Japan among other Asian countries and various Latin American countries: Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Paraguay and Uruguay Altogether they represent 68% of commerce in services at the global level.


The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) are notably excluded, although China requested, without success, to be incorporated in TISA. The intention is clearly to establish economic competition with this block and others of the Pacific led by China.


The United States and the initiators of TISA -- who respond to the demand of extremely powerful transnational financial groups and supermarket chains, among others -- call themselves the "authentic good friends of services", in an ironic reference to the group of negotiation on liberalization of services in the World Trade Organization (WTO) that they consider stagnant, in spite of the fact that it also has severe negative impacts for most people. The WTO is no more transparent or democratic. Their agreements are negotiated in secret, among self-elected groups of countries, and finally go to a plenary of members who can do little to change what was already agreed among a few countries.


The difference with TISA, in addition to the content, is that not even formally is it proposed to go to another body, outside of the club of the elected, before finalizing the agreement. The text will be confidential for five years after the agreement and the Congresses of the countries -- where their approval is required -- can only accept or reject the whole package, as a black box. Paradoxically, TISA will demand total transparency from States on their public purchases, services and regulations, and before they come into effect, they will be obliged to consult first with the business enterprises.


Obviously, TISA will facilitate greater privatization of public services, which is devastating in itself, since sectors such as health, education, water, sanitation, electricity and many others are not "markets", but basic needs of society that should be covered socially regardless of the geographic or economic situation of those who need them. This has already suffered a brutal erosion in many countries and TISA proposes to go further.


In addition, TISA is designing a complete deregulation of private services. For example Walmart, the biggest business of the planet and the largest US private employer (with a devastating impact on salaries and labour rights) is taking an active part in the negotiations of TISA, through the Coalition of Service Industries, and hopes that this agreement will make them "free from governmental norms on zoning and size of outlets" as well as from regulations on the sale of alcohol, cigarettes etc. (E.Gould, ISP 2014).


Other new and key elements of TISA are the so-called maintainance of the status quo and the "ratchet clause". According to this, TISA countries will not in the future be able to make any law or norm or change any policy that affects the agreement,


And if that was not enough, everything that is defined as a service will be automatically included -- including things that do not now exist, for example new coverage of health services etc. -- because there will only be lists of exclusion that countries present during negotiation and are approved.


The perversions of this treaty are such that it is urgent to know about it and to act against it, from wherever we are, as labour, environmental and social organizations are already doing. One piece of good news was the general strike by the workers’ central PIT-CNT of Uruguay, on August 6, including in their demands the "total and absolute rejection of TISA".


(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)


- Silvia Ribeiro is a researcher with the ETC Group.
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