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The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is a proposed international trade treaty between 23 Parties, including the European Union and the United States. The agreement aims at liberalizing the worldwide trade of services such as banking, health care and transport.[1] Criticism about the secrecy of the agreement arose after WikiLeaks released in June 2014 a classified draft of the proposal’s financial services annex, dated the previous April. Another release took place in June 2015 and in May 2016.

The process was proposed to a group of countries meeting in Geneva called the Really Good Friends. All negotiating meetings take place in Geneva. The EU and the US are the main proponents of the agreement, and the authors of most joint changes. The participating countries started crafting the proposed agreement in February 2012 and presented initial offers at the end of 2013.

Proposed agreement
The agreement covers about 70% of the global services economy. Some claim that the aim of TISA is the privatization of worldwide trade in services in areas such as banking, healthcare and transport. Services comprise 75% of American economic output; in EU states, almost 75% of its employment and gross domestic product.

For commitments on what the European Commission calls “‘national treatment’ (i.e. on equal treatment for foreign and local suppliers)”, excluding commitments on market access, the following applies: Once a particular trade barrier has unilaterally been removed in an area where the country has made a commitment, it cannot be reintroduced. This proposal is known as the ‘ratchet clause’.

European Union
The EU claims its trade agreements do not prevent governments at any level from providing services in areas such as water, education, health and social services. The EU has stated that companies outside its borders will not be allowed to provide publicly funded healthcare or social services.

Market access for publicly funded health, social services and education, water services, film or TV will not be taken. Therefore, the ‘ratchet clause’ will not apply.

Parties involved
Initially having 16 members, the TISA has expanded to include 23 parties. Since the European Union represents 28 member states, there are 50 countries represented. The number of countries represented in each continent are: 32 in Europe, 7 in Asia, 5 in North America, 3 in South America, 2 in Oceania, and 1 in Africa. The 23 TiSA parties in order of their income categories are:

Country/Territory Income GroupParties
High Income Australia
 Hong Kong
 South Korea
 New Zealand
 United States
 European Union (28 countries)
Upper Middle Income Colombia
 Costa Rica
 Mauritius[not in citation given]
Lower Middle Income Pakistan

The agreement has been criticized for the secrecy around the negotiation. The cover page of the negotiating document leaked by Wikileaks says: “Declassify on: Five years from entry into force of the TISA agreement or, if no agreement enters into force, five years from the close of the negotiations.” Because of this practice it is not possible to be informed about the liberalizing rules that the participating countries propose for the future agreement. Only Switzerland has a practice of making public on the Internet all the proposals it submitted to the other parties since June 2012. European Union published its “offer” for TISA only in July 2014, after the Wikileaks disclosure.

Digital rights advocates have also brought attention to the fact that the agreement has provisions which would significantly weaken existing data protection provisions in signatory countries. In particular, the agreement would strip existing protections which aim to keep confidential or personally identifiable data within country borders or which prohibit its movement to other countries which do not have similar data protection laws in place.

Leaked contents
WikiLeaks released a classified draft of the proposal’s financial services annex in June 2014, dated the previous April. Another release took place in June 2015 and in May 2016.

  1. Press Release – Secret Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) – Financial Services Annex (2014-06-19)
  2. WikiLeaks releases documents related to controversial US trade pact (2015-06-03)
  3. Trade in Services Agreement – Press release (2016-05-25)

Ban on government mandates to access software source code
The agreement bans government mandates for requiring access to software source code, stating “No Party may require the transfer of, or access to, source code of software owned by a person of another Party, as a condition of providing services related to such software in its territory.”[ This may change preferences for open source software such as the word processing application LibreOffice which has been deployed by many local governments throughout the EU.

A preliminary analysis of the Financial Services Annex by prominent free trade critic Professor Jane Kelsey, Faculty of Law, University of Auckland, New Zealand was published with the WikiLeaks release.

The Public Services International (PSI) organization described TISA as:

a treaty that would further liberalize trade and investment in services, and expand “regulatory disciplines” on all services sectors, including many public services. The “disciplines,” or treaty rules, would provide all foreign providers access to domestic markets at “no less favorable” conditions as domestic suppliers and would restrict governments’ ability to regulate, purchase and provide services. This would essentially change the regulation of many public and privatized or commercial services from serving the public interest to serving the profit interests of private, foreign corporations.

One concern is the provisions regarding retention of business records. David Cay Johnston said, “It is … hard to make the case that the cost of keeping a duplicate record at the home office in a different country is a burden.” He noted that business records requirements are sufficiently important that they were codified in law even before the Code of Hammurabi.

Impacts of the law may include “whether people can get loans or buy insurance and at what prices as well as what jobs may be available.”

Dr. Patricia Ranald, a research associate at the University of Sydney, said:

“Amendments from the US are seeking to end publicly provided services like public pension funds, which are referred to as ‘monopolies’ and to limit public regulation of all financial services … They want to freeze financial regulation at existing levels, which would mean that governments could not respond to new developments like another global financial crisis.”

Regarding the secrecy of the draft, Professor Kelsey commented: “The secrecy of negotiating documents exceeds even the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and runs counter to moves in the WTO towards greater openness.” Johnston adds, “It is impossible to obey a law or know how it affects you when the law is secret.”


Souvenir Advance Magazine 18 Sep 2017, launched by Dr Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Leader of the Mauritius Labour Party.

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