The latest on trade and development policy: a TiSA special
Last week the European Parliament adopted the report on the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) by a large majority. Although we worked very intensively on the report, we voted against its adoption when the vote in plenary session was held.
Why? Firstly the vote was not about saying “yes” or “no” to the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) itself. In fact the report was intended to determine the positions of the European Parliament towards a possible TiSA and hence influence further negotiations on the agreement. The report allows Parliament to define the conditions under which acceptance of the TiSA would be possible. Negotiations on the agreement itself are unlikely to come to a conclusion this year and so the Parliament will not be able to hold a final vote on the TiSA in the near future.
We Greens worked intensively on compilation of the TiSA report and insisted on pinning down as many red lines as possible. We were partly successful and were able to incorporate many of our demands.
However, the crucial point for the way we voted was that we Greens wanted to demand that the European Commission explicitly modify its negotiating mandate and hence its negotiating strategy according to the criticism voiced in Parliament. The majority in the European Parliament did not agree to this. This meant that the demands of MEPs lacked bite and will remain without impact. However, we Greens do not want to become voting fodder and support the direction the Commission is taking. We want to push through genuine changes and the European Parliament was unable to bring itself to do that.
Nevertheless we were able to incorporate some more positive items in the report.
- Complete protection for services of general interest. In its TiSA report the European Parliament has formulated the farthest reaching protection clause for public services that it has ever called for in a report. Healthcare, education, public water supply and waste management, as well as all services that are of general and general economic interest, are to be exempted from negotiations. It is irrelevant whether these services are financed by the private or public sector or whether these are current or future services.
- TiSA negotiations must be given a multilateral character. In the TiSA 23 countries are to determine the rules for globalisation of services. This is not democratic and poses the threat of fragmenting world trade. We were able to incorporate the demand that the TiSA must have a multilateral character. We want to improve the rules regulating trade in services in a global framework.
- No to creeping de-democratisation. The European Parliament spoke out against standstill or ratchet clauses being included in the TiSA. These clauses stipulate that once any liberalisation steps are taken, they cannot be reversed. If the local water supply were to be liberalised, for example, it could not be removed from the global market even by law. This outcome is a success.
- The Global South requires special protection. The negotiating parties to the TiSA require that all countries open up their markets to the same extent. But this often has a disastrous effect on developing industries in poor countries because they cannot defend themselves against cheap products from industrialised countries. Therefore we insisted that the report grant developing countries special terms.
- Deregulation of public procurement must remain voluntary. The TiSA is intended to bring about extensive liberalisation of public procurement. The European Parliament is now calling for liberalisation to be optional for participating countries. This is so important because the principle of voluntary participation is also to be incorporated in the reform of WTO rules.
- We were able to prevent the worst regarding data security and financial market services. For example, the European Parliament is demanding that the TiSA contains no clauses that could restrict existing and future regulations on data security in Europe. Regarding financial services, European regulations decided after the financial crisis must not be undermined.
However, we Greens cannot be satisfied with the report as a whole. This is primarily due to two important points:
- Undemocratic structures. The report does not speak out against negative lists. This mechanism automatically entails liberalisation of markets for existing and future services - unless they are specifically excluded from this mechanism. This constitutes a creeping loss of democratic control over regulation of services that will only become possible with the advent of new technologies, for example. Such services will automatically be subject to liberalisation.
- Deportation agreements will become mandatory. Services are often provided by people directly on the spot. In order to provide services, they have to be able to enter and leave a country. However, the report demands that deportation agreements must be concluded with all countries from which service contractors can come. This goes far too far and we cannot share responsibility for it.
We support the good sections of the resolution but unfortunately it has all too often been the case previously that the European Commission does not react to the demands of the European Parliament. For us it is important that the Commission really does change its negotiating strategy. Unfortunately MEPs did not want to pursue our proposals in this matter. This shows that many MEPs were not concerned about a genuine change of course in the TiSA negotiations. We do not want to become progressive ornamentation and consequently had to reject the report.
If you have any further questions on the report, please contact my office or me.