Trade in Services Agreement (TISA)

© Martial Trezzini/Keystone
In 2012, the United States initiated discussions on a new trade agreement aimed at promoting the liberalisation of services. Twenty-three parties, including the European Union and Switzerland are participating in the contractual negotiations on the Trade in Services Agreement, also known as TISA. This is mainly happening behind closed doors, and out of sight of the public. Thanks to Wikileaks and Co., the negotiation documents and draft positions have been published on a regular basis.

The agreement plans to grant foreign services providers with unlimited access to national markets and to limit the possibilities of State regulation of the provision of many services – as was already essentially the case in all the other agreements. The financial sector would then be fully open for foreign banks and service providers. This would make small countries strongly dependent on these companies.

Paradigm shift: profit before public service

Public procurement would also be affected, as would public services such as healthcare, provision of water and energy, public transport and education. In the case of public services, the agreement constitutes a paradigm shift away from the provision of basic regulated, guaranteed State services that aim to ensure the welfare of all, and a shift towards maximum profit-making for multinational corporations.

The planned liberalisation of the exchange of cross-border data that will allow companies to freely transfer information gathered to other States, flies in the face of current efforts being made to protect personal data, and would strengthen the powers of large companies whose sales’ activities are based on the aggregation and analysis of their clients’ and users’ data (Big Data): big telecommunications operators, Internet providers, and providers of financial services as well as on-line trading companies.

TISA has been particularly criticised for its so-called “ratchet clauses” and “standstill”. The Ratchet clause would render irreversible any deregulation or privatisation that is implemented. Which means that a State may no longer go back to guaranteeing the best services for its people, but rather is bound to place its trust in the free market. The “standstill” clause implies that all environmental protection laws that currently exist, as well as those governing the social, healthcare and consumer protection spheres, could no longer be strengthened if and when TISA were to be implemented.

Switzerland and TISA

Since the beginning of the negotiations, Switzerland has been part of the “Really Good Friends of Services”, in other words, it is one of the countries negotiating TISA. But compared with the major negotiating blocs of the United States and the European Union, the power to influence outcomes is rather limited.

Switzerland underlines the fact that TISA should not affect any existing WTO agreements. Subsequent multi-lateralisation of TISA is explicitly envisaged through the expansion and integration of the agreement into the WTO framework. And even if multilateral trade agreements involving all States are preferred to a plurilateral approach, such an approach would not confer any possibility for non-party States to the initial agreement to participate in the negotiations. They would nevertheless be bound to accept the TISA’s conditions, were such measures to be included in the WTO framework. Developing countries in particular would have absolutely no possibility to envisage measures for accompanying and supporting economic development, or enabling the population at large to benefit.

Public Eye is convinced that plurilateral trade agreements such as TISA, that are negotiated behind closed doors, are not the way forward towards enabling a more just economic world order to see the light of day. This is why we have joined the “alliance Ensemble contre les accords TTIP, TISA & Co / Gemeinsam gegen TTIP, TISA & Co.”, that has formulated a critical analysis of the contents of the agreements and is requesting that the Federal Council hold public negotiations and submit the agreements to a compulsory referendum.