ETUC Steps In On TiSA

etuc-fallback-content-image_9Emergency Motion – Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA)
Adopted at the ETUC 13th Congress on 2 October 2015

Since 2013, the EU has been negotiating the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) plurilaterally with 23 other WTO members with the aim of further liberalising trade in services by the means of reaching an international agreement that goes far beyond the existing provisions of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). By the goals set out in the EU negotiating mandate, this agreement should be “comprehensive and ambitious”, “apply in principal to all sectors and modes of supply” and “bind the autonomous level of liberalisation”. Yet, negotiations are conducted in total secrecy, behind closed doors.

In the beginning of June and July 2015, however, Wikileaks published the most comprehensive compendium of secret documents from the TiSA negotiations ever, revealing the full extent of the planned agreement for the first time. The leaked documents included the draft core text of this new agreement as well as several annexes including on domestic regulation, movement of workers and specific sectors such as maritime and aviation transport. First analyses of these documents make it apparent that TiSA might have significant detrimental implications on the working and living conditions of large parts of the population, including those of workers in Europe.

It appears that so-called ratchet and standstill clauses are to be incorporated into TiSA with the effect of locking-in a certain degree of liberalisation and confining the public policy space to that of ever increasing liberalisation. In sectors affected by such clauses, TiSA would make it impossible to return to a decreased level of liberalisation. The re-municipalisation of services of general interest that has occurred in recent years would no longer be possible choices of democratically elected governments. A possible incorporation of a so-called Most-favoured-nation (MFN) clause into the core text could bear the risk of bringing an investor-state-dispute-settlement (ISDS) mechanism into TiSA via the back door of other free trade agreements such as CETA or TTIP. More recent information sources confirm even a possible annex on the facilitation of patient mobility being currently under discussion by TiSA negotiators, despite Trade Commissioner’s Malmström reassurance in February 2015 as reaction to a first leaked concept paper by the Turkish party that “under no circumstances, I would ever propose a trade agreement that contained provisions on portability of health insurance”.

One of the key issues of the TISA negotiations are the so-called rules on domestic regulation, which directly relate to important regulations for safeguarding standards. The newly leaked negotiation documents reveal that regulations must be in line with TiSA provisions even if they are non-discriminatory and serve to guarantee fundamental cultural, social or ecological rights. By the same token, regulations must stand a so-called necessity test of being “no more burdensome than necessary”. The objective here is to restrict a government’s room for manoeuvre as far as regulations are concerned, thus potentially putting a downward pressure on labour, social, environmental and consumer standards. This, for instance, would also impact financial services where, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, it is especially important for more stringent standards to be enforced. Yet, the negotiation documents reveal that even greater liberalisation of the financial markets is envisaged under TiSA. The most recent official withdrawal of Uruguay and Paraguay from the TiSA negotiations in early September can be judged as another indication that states start to see these risks and react to the increasing public pressure.

In light of these alarming recent publications and against the background of the European Parliament currently drafting its recommendations on TiSA, the ETUC Congress urgently calls for the following aspects to be guaranteed in the TISA negotiations:

Negotiations must not take place in secret. Negotiation documents must be published in order to allow the general public and civil society to be informed in good time. We demand the highest level of transparency and involvement of the European Parliament, national parliaments, social partners and civil society organizations.

Every effort must be undertaken to protect public services and in particular no pressure must be brought to bear either in favour of liberalising or privatising public services, nor should a return to the provision of greater – or even wholly – public services be blocked by any ratchet or standstill clause. Public services e.g. health care and social services, education, water and waste services must therefore be excluded from the scope of any trade agreement; this exclusion should apply irrespective of how the services are provided and funded. In this light we ask the European Commission to openly reject the use of negative or hybrid listing in any trade agreement.

Under no circumstances should possible means of regulation be restricted where this leads to a lowering of national labour, social, environmental and consumer standards. The member states’ right to regulate and to introduce new regulations must not be compromised. Between two services that meet the same use, member states must be allowed to favour the one furnished in respect of labour standards.

Limits on the introduction of new prudential regulation and further liberalisation of financial markets cannot be accepted. Governments must maintain the right to fully intervene in times of financial crisis, and to limit international financial flows in order to prevent currency crises. The financial crisis demonstrated that instead of further liberalisation and deregulation, governments must bring back the rules and regulation on the financial markets.

European data protection standards, as provided for in the envisaged EU General Data Protection Regulation, must not be compromised. Data collected by foreign businesses must therefore be processed in situ and in line with local data protection laws.

Any establishment of temporary free movement of workers must under no circumstances make it possible to undermine labour and social law and collective agreement provisions of the host country and respect the obligation to proceed with a preliminary analysis of the labour market. Possible negotiations on mode IV must be bound to functioning cross-border cooperation in administration and justice in labour and employment law issues as a precondition to guarantee the full application of collective agreement wages and working conditions. It must be possible to make any lack of enforcement by the contractual parties subject to dispute settlement including sanctions.

Any dispute settlement mechanisms foreseen in TiSA – may it only be temporary before a possible multilateralization of the agreement under the WTO – must take into account the current critics on ISDS, and more especially must not offer private investors the privilege to challenge democratically chosen policies without strong social clauses allowing to effectively sanctioning violations of international labour standards at the same time.

If TiSA doesn’t meet all these demands, the ETUC calls for its rejection.

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Canada: NDP Says It Is Not Bound By TPP Deal

As the Canadian General Election hots up Tom Mulcair of the NDP Party has written to the Conservative trade minister regarding the TPP. Mulcair informs the government that an NDP government will not consider itself bound by any trade agreement signed during this election campaign.

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Finland: Talks On Trade Union Law Update

HelsinkiBy Matti Koskinen, Head of International Affairs
Ammattiliitto Pro / Trade Union Pro

In Finland trade unions and the employers are still in negotiations on proposals designed to restrict collective bargaining and change working arrangements – but the Government have set a deadline of next Monday at 4 pm. The deadline is has been laid down by Prime Minister and there is no reason for this date, the only reason is political pressure.

SAK (Finnish TUC) has proposed that wage increases be waived in 2017 and that wage moderation could continue into 2018. After 2017 pay increases should be based on the export sector level, as it is done in Sweden.

Employees, meanwhile, would be made responsible for certain social security contributions instead of employers.

SAK has calculated that its measures would reduce unit labour costs by 4.2 per cent.

SAK’s proposal does not affect the terms and conditions of employment. In addition, wage earners would shoulder the burden of the measures more evenly as the proposal of the Government would place a greater burden on people working overtime and on Sundays.

For more details on the complexity of the situation:

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Why we must stop the EU/Canadian free trade agreement (CETA)

images-1By Linda Kaucher

While there is growing awareness and rejection of TTIP (the US/EU free trade agreement called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Agreement), another corporate-benefit ‘free trade’ agreement that is a back-door for TTIP is much more advanced and deserves our urgent attention.

CETA is the EU/Canada free trade agreement, called the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. Another of the ‘new generation’ so-called ‘free trade agreements’ that are not about trade but about corporate rights, CETA, like TTIP, has Investor State Dispute Settlement provision (ISDS).  ISDS allows transnational corporations to sue governments for any threat to their bottom line, such as socially or environmentally useful legislation.

With CETA in place, US corporations will be able to sue EU governments via their Canadian subsidiaries even before or without TTIP. In London, 70 Fleet St is the secretive, unmarked location where arbitration tribunals hear ISDS cases.

CETA in fact now has a worse version of ISDS than that in TTIP.

To address public and European Parliamentary concern about ISDS in TTIP, the European Commission has recently proposed an adjusted version of ISDS for TTIP, even changing the name to ICS (International Court System).  This still has the same core problem of giving rights to transnational corporations to sue governments, outside of national court systems, while denying governments and citizens’ rights to sue corporations.

But CETA still has the unadjusted version of ISDS, so without even the inadequate changes.

Attention to CETA is urgent because negotiations have already been finalised, with fanfare exactly a year ago, although the 1600 page document was only actually finalised six months later.

Following the processes for all ‘free-trade’ agreements, the CETA document is now being ‘legally scrubbed’ to ensure legal coherence across the various chapters of the agreement. It will then be translated into the languages of the EU member states.

Although the European Commission and the UK Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) continue to assert that the agreement will be ready for the following stage by early 2016, translators do not seem to have even received the document yet, suggesting that mid or late 2016 is more realistic. But we should not underestimate the push to complete the whole process as fast as possible.

The next stage is for the European Council, made up of member state governments, to agree the document.  For this, member state governments will need to sign individually, towards a consensus decision.

Any member state could veto CETA in the Council. This is a key stage and we need to inform the public and to pressure the UK government, exposing the fact that without analysis and public debate on what is in this agreement, our government should not be signing up to it.

If CETA passes the Council stage – and the Council did grant the Commission the original mandate to go ahead and negotiate CETA – it will then come before the European Parliament. The EP only has the right of assent.
While the US President has had to seek special, limited-time ‘Fast Track’ permission for trade agreements to go quickly through the Congress with only an up or down vote and no amendments, that, in fact, is all that EU ‘democracy’ ever allows the European Parliament in respect of trade agreements – a yes or no vote with no amendments.

Once the assent of the European Parliament is achieved – and this deserves much wider attention – the Commission, according to the Lisbon Treaty, can then provisionally implement all parts of the agreement for which it has ‘competency’.  The UK Business Department (BIS) estimates this will be 98% of the agreement. It will certainly, according to the Lisbon Treaty, including investment.

Importantly, ISDS liabilities kick in at this stage. If this seems academic, consider that the biggest pay-out ever ordered by an arbitration panel – for Russia to pay out $50b to Yukos and other oil companies from a dispute brought via other states under the Energy Charter Treaty – dated from the provisional period of the Treaty, which Russia did not, in the end, join.

The final stage of the process for CETA, as with other trade agreements, is ratification by each member state parliament – but only if there is a decision that member states do share competency for some parts of the deal. This is not yet decided.

When provisional implementation in place, the EU is in no hurry for this ratification to occur. Delay is not refusal. But, at least theoretically, if any member state does refuse to ratify the agreement, the whole deal has to be renegotiated. Under these circumstances, the Commission’s ability to provisionally implement appears inconsistent, but that is the arrangement and it is not the only inconsistent and unresolved issue in EU trade processes.

When the UK Business Department trade lawyer was asked if a sub-national parliament, not the UK devolved parliaments but eg a German state government, or, with CETA, a Canadian provincial parliament, could also veto a trade deal, he was unable to confirm or deny if this is the case – though the question seems to be of key importance.

However BIS staff are happy to point out that, if any member state did not agree with a trade deal, it would be most likely have shown up at the Council stage.

Therefore we should not look to member state ratification stage for a last minute veto for any of these deals.
EU activists were slow to take notice of, and act, on CETA, expecting a deal with Canada to be benign.  Canadian trade activists however, with the experience of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement, recognised the risks from the outset.

Now we need to urgently raise awareness of this backdoor CETA before our government signs up to it in the Council and particularly before our MEPs vote on it.

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CTUF- IER Event at TUC Tory Party Demo. UPDATED!!!

Tory Conf (JN7163) A5 CTUF Leaflet

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CTUF- IER Event at the TUC Demo – Tory Party Conference

The Campaign For Trade Union Freedom and the Institute of Employment Rights is holding an event with speakers at the TUC demo on October 4th in Manchester. Please note – because of security in the city centre the even is being held at a venue near to the start of the TUC Rally in All Saints, Manchester, near to the Manchester Royal Infirmary.

The venue is in the upstairs bar at The Oxford and will start at 12 noon with time for demonstrators to attend the rally and march. More info soon.(JN7163) A5 CTUF Manchester Tory demo flyer

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CTUF- IER Event At TUC Demo, Tory Party Conference, October 4th.

(JN7163) A5 CTUF Manchester Tory demo flyer

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John Hendy QC & Professor Keith Ewing Talk About The Trade Union Bill

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U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Rejects Malmström Proposal On ISDS

Celia Malmstrom - US Business rejects new proposals on ISDS.

Celia Malmstrom – US Business rejects new proposals on ISDS.

By Tony Burke, Chair, Campaign For Trade Union Freedom

In a fresh blow to the announcement that the EU was to propose an “alternative” to the ISDS clauses in the TTIP Agreement announced by Trade Commisioner Cecelia Malmström last week the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has rejected the proposal.

Ms. Malmström proposed an ‘Investment Court System’ – a softer version of ISDS, to try to push on with the TTIP negotiations. The ISDS clauses have met with unrelenting opposition by opponents of TTIP and trade unions.

The new proposals were roundly dismissed within days of their publication and it appears they have failed to gain traction.

The U.S. Chamber’s Vice President for European Affairs Marjorie Chorlins issued the following statement on the announcement by the European Commission on their intent to adopt the Investment Court System – a new approach to the investor-state dispute settlement system:

“While we recognize the EU has a political problem relating to future investment treaties, the U.S. business community cannot in any way endorse today’s EU proposal as a model for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).  The recent European debate around investment treaties the obligations governments accept in them and the methods they provide for dispute settlement is not grounded in the facts, and the distortions in this debate cannot be allowed to trump sound policy.

If the EU still regards the TTIP as a serious objective, today’s proposal is deeply flawed.  Tough negotiations lie ahead, and the reforms the United States has undertaken in recent years in its own investment agreements represent a far superior starting point for these important deliberations.”

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Uruguay Dumps TiSA Talks

imagesUruguay has announced it has withdrawn from the Trade In Services Agreement talks after saying:  “A ratchet clause in a trade agreement means a country cannot reintroduce a particular trade barrier that it had previously and unilaterally removed in an area where it had made a commitment”.

The ratchet clause ensures that there is only one direction of travel – towards greater deregulation, and greater loss of control by sovereign nations.

It is believed that Uruguay withdrew when it recognised that once a country has joined the negotiations, it becomes increasingly hard to get out – irrespective of public opposition.

Inside US Trade today says: “Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez has decided to withdraw his country from the negotiations for the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) following opposition from the center-left ruling coalition and national labor unions, and has ordered his foreign minister to formally notify other participants in the talks”

The withdrawal of Uruguay will have little effect on TiSA itself and the major nations will continue their talks but Uruguay’s move is of major symbolic importance proving that it is possible to withdraw from global negotiations, and that the apparently irreversible trade deal ratchet can actually be turned back.

It sets an important precedent that other nations with growing doubts about TTIP, CETA, TPP and TISA could follow.

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