German GUE/NGL MEP Helmut Scholz, who is attending a World Trade Organization Conference on TiSA (Trade in Services Agreement) in Geneva today, denounces many aspects of this agreement.
Helmut Scholz (GUE/NGL coordinator on the International Trade Committee: “Many people are very concerned about the TTIP negotiations between the EU Commission and the U.S. Government. But fewer people are aware that there are parallel negotiations going on that address a number of the same issues as in the TTIP. Full liberalisation of all services is on the agenda in Geneva, Tokyo, Brasilia, Beijing and many more capitals where trade negotiators meet. In fact, for the EU Commission the exact same team is negotiating TiSA and the services aspects of TTIP.
“The protagonists of TiSA call themselves the ‘really good friends of services’. But in fact they are the close buddies of private corporations selling services for major profits. Their interest is neither universal access to services for all citizens, nor the people working hard to provide people the services they need.
“The biggest driving force behind TiSA is large financial corporations. The people that drove us into the current financial crisis see their chance to bring deregulation of financial markets back on track. In fact, the EU Commission is among the most active delegations when it comes to pushing for more and easier market access for financial services providers, when even the U.S. are more reluctant.
“We have to see this initiative in conjunction with the pressure to privatise pension systems and to inform citizens that they need to buy private insurance to avoid poverty after retirement. Today, financial and insurance services have just 5.4% share of the EU28 services sector. With the current privatisation programmes this figure will dramatically increase. TiSA brings in the regulatory framework to ensure that the changes pushed through by abusing the desperate budget situation of many governments cannot be reversed. The strong stand-still and ratchet clauses the EU Commission wants to see in TiSA are intended to safeguard profits for finance and insurance corporations beyond eventual democratic policy changes following elections.
“The ratchet clause is a sleeping demon that was successfully smuggled into the GATS architecture. The ratchet clause means that once you privatise a sector, you can never reverse this decision. In recent years, many local authorities in Germany and other EU member states found out that it was a costly mistake to privatise certain public services and utilities. There is now a growing trend to bring them back under public control, in the interest of citizens and employees alike. TiSA negotiators aim to stop this trend. Today, public services like administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities in EU28 account for the major share of 19.4 % of the services sector.
“The UK has also followed the U.S. in privatising prisons. Private “correction services” have become a very profitable business with the consequence that the goal of reintegrating people who failed back into society has been abandoned. The business idea is to have a lot of people in prison. In the U.S. this has let to a situation where one quarter of all prisoners in the world is imprisoned in the United States. Prison labour has become a very profitable addition to the profits of the large correction services corporations.
MEP Scholz continued by highlighting that it is not in the interest of society to privatise all services. “It is not in the interest of society to commit to an agreement that is intended to be a tool of privatisation and deregulation. Let me remind you of the strong and successful battle against the liberalisation of port services. With the TiSA negotiations, port services are back on the agenda.
“Many people are aware of the risks behind the regulatory cooperation chapter proposed for TTIP. But still too few citizens are aware that in TiSA they are trying to introduce just the same.
The MEP responsible for TiSA in the European Parliament is former Commissioner Viviane Reding, a member of the EPP group has just presented her working document preparing a new parliamentary resolution on the TiSA negotiations and she is generally in favour of TiSA. But she did raise some concerns on two issues: the right-to-regulate and data privacy.
“TiSA does address e-commerce and transnational data flows. Strong data protection is not part of the political culture of several of the negotiating governments, in particular the U.S. We are facing the same battle as in TTIP here. When it comes to data flows, for the U.S. this all about making business. Some of their largest corporations built their business on data mining, and with the technological advances in “big data” and “the Internet of Things”. Our citizens face a serious lack of legal protection against the coming data sale, including data collected by administrations. If we look at the U.S. proposals in TiSA, data flows are not about equal protection in the respective countries, but only about “interoperability” of data industry, merging with state-run data collection instruments.
MEP Scholz concluded: “Protagonists of TiSA are aware of the existing lack of regulation in the globalised economy. They want to make good use of the situation by installing in legally binding agreements a number of provisions, which they could hardly push through in the democratic law making systems in most nation states. Now is the time to protest and to stand firm. But we also need to develop our proposals for re-regulation, and for the international instruments needed for monitoring and implementation. We need to fight for a renaissance of the spirit that let to the foundation of the United Nations, in order to address new global challenges emerging in a global economy of transnational corporations. We need a new effort to globalise citizens interests like decent work, universal access to services, protection of human rights and the rights of workers and their unions, the right to data privacy and self-determination, an end to corporate tax avoidance in order to provide societies with the means for social and health protection schemes. In the past, we achieved a number of United Nations Conventions addressing these issues. Today, decision-makers talk about TiSA, TTIP, TPP, CETA, and other trade agreements instead. Let us work together to stop this trend and to start a process in our societies, in which we reflect again on our needs and translate that into efficient international regulatory frameworks.”
GUE/NGL Press Contact:
Gay Kavanagh +32 473 84 23 20