September 16, 2013
Dear Trade Ministers,
We, the undersigned civil society organizations, representing hundreds of millions of members across the globe, are writing to express our strong opposition to the negotiations towards a proposed far-reaching plurilateral “Trade in Services Agreement (TISA)”.
For those countries of the so-called “Really Good Friends [of Services] (RGF)” participating in the talks – Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Pakistan, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, the United States, and the 28 member states of the European Union – we urge you to abandon them.
For those countries not participating, we urge you to register your strong opposition to the negotiations and to pledge never to join any potential future TISA.
The TISA negotiations largely follow the corporate agenda of using “trade” agreements to bind countries to an agenda of extreme liberalization and deregulation in order to ensure greater corporate profits at the expense of workers, farmers, consumers and the environment. The proposed agreement is the direct result of systematic advocacy by transnational corporations in banking, energy, insurance, telecommunications, transportation, water, and other services sectors, working through lobby groups like the US Coalition of Service Industries (USCSI) and the European Services Forum (ESF). Notwithstanding several financial, economic, social and environmental crises, the services rules proposed for the TISA replicate and greatly expand upon the same rules that “discipline” government measures and limit policy space for regulation, enshrined in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and free trade agreements (FTAs), which contributed to those crises.
Strong regulation of and oversight over both public and private services is crucial for democracy, the public interest and development, as well as for the orderly functioning of the services market. We fear that all of these values and goals would be seriously undermined by this proposed TISA.
Democracy is eroded when decision-making about important sectors– such as financial services (including banking, securities trading, accounting, insurance, etc.), energy, education, healthcare, retail, shipping, telecommunications, legal services, transportation, and tourism– is transferred from citizens, local oversight boards, and local or provincial/state jurisdiction to unaccountable “trade” negotiators who have shown a clear proclivity for curtailing regulation and prioritizing corporate profits.
The deregulation of the financial sector and capital which was encouraged in part through 1990s–era rules of GATS and FTAs led to the recent global financial crisis and the ensuing worldwide wave of recessions. The continued suffering by millions from unemployment and austerity measures reminds us that financial sector re-regulation is essential to rebuild stability and forestall future financial and economic crises.
We denounce the ambition of the RGF to bind further service sectors to the deregulatory GATS-like rules(e.g. in Article XVI on Market Access or Article VI on Domestic Regulation) while legislatures move toward re-regulation. We further reject any plans to adopt new cross-sector restrictions on licensing, technical standards and other domestic regulations (even regulations that affect domestic and foreign businesses alike) that would surpass the existing GATS and FTA rules in restricting governments’ and parliaments’ right to regulate.
We strongly condemn the secretive nature of the TISA talks, in which the citizens, parliamentarians, trade unions, regulating agencies, services users and other interested parties have limited or no access to those who are setting negotiating mandates or to negotiations or negotiating documents, while corporations set the agenda and have easy access to the negotiation documents. We insist that in such negotiations as for the proposed TISA, negotiating texts must be published, and input from regulatory agencies, public service providers and users, parliamentarians, state and local officials, and civil society organizations must be regularly invited. Parliaments and legislatures must set binding terms for such negotiations, which must not go into effect without a full vote of elected officials.
The proposed TISA is an assault on the public interest as it fails to ensure that foreign investments in service sectors actually promote public goals and sustainable economies. We are particularly wary of further undermining of essential services such as health care and insurance, water and energy provision, postal distribution, education, public transportation, sanitation, and others if they are handed over to private and foreign corporations motivated only by profits and available only to those who can pay market rates. Therefore such essential services– including those that operate under a public/private mix, compete with private providers, or charge a fee –should not be subject to any closed-door, unaccountable trade negotiations, including the TISA.
We denounce the intent within the proposed TISA to promote the liberalization of so-called temporary movement of natural persons, who are actually migrant workers, without guaranteeing legal protections for their human and labour rights. The movement of workers is outside the competence of trade agreements and must be dealt with as part of the normative tripartite framework of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The proposed TISA also poses a threat to countries that are not participating. The European Union and the United States have made clear that their intention is to “multilateralize” the negotiations. We call for vigilance against the determination of the EU and the United States to set the TISA’s hyper-deregulation-and-privatization agenda as the global “norm,” and to pressure other countries into joining, in particular countries that may accede to the WTO. Further, it is not a stretch to consider that once a TISA is concluded, signatory countries would try to act as a bloc in services (GATS) negotiations within the WTO, pushing other countries meet the TISA level of liberalization and deregulation, thus contradicting the services negotiating guidelines that WTO members agreed upon by consensus. We further denounce the TISA as an attempt to advance developed countries’ corporate wish lists for services while abandoning commitments made in the WTO’s Doha Development Agenda to address developing country concerns, such as fixing existing asymmetries and unfair rules on agriculture.
The world is still recovering from the greatest global economic downturn in nearly a century, facilitated by the extreme deregulation of the financial services industry. It is clear that strong public oversight over services is necessary to ensure that the public interest is prioritized over private profit. We reject the TISA that would move our countries in precisely the wrong direction.
International and Regional organizations and Networks
ACP Civil Society Forum
The Forum is a coalition of 80 not-for-profit organisations working on issues relating to ACP-EU development cooperation. It seeks to cater for the diverse range civil society development issues within the wide geographic coverage of the ACP group.
Africa Europe Faith And Justice Network (AEFJN)
AEFJN is a Faith-based International Network present in AFRICA and in EUROPE, established in 1988. AEFJN promotes economic justice between the European Union and sub-Saharan Africa so that the poor of Africa may look forward to a better future.
Africa Trade Network (ATN)
ATN is a long-standing network of civil society organisations, working on economic justice. The ATN has observer status with the African Union, and has provided a means of increased interaction between civil society groups and African governments, including the annual Conference of African Ministers of Trade.
Alianza Social Continental (ASC)
La ASC es un movimiento integrado por organizaciones sociales, redes temáticas y organizaciones sectoriales de todo el hemisferio Americano, desde Canadá hasta Chile.
Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND)
ANND is a regional network, working in 12 Arab countries with seven national networks (with an extended membership of 200 CSOs from different backgrounds) and 23 NGO members.
Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)
A regional migrant centre working in the Asia Pacific and Middle East region.
Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN)
APRN is a network of leading research NGOs in the Asia-Pacific. It is active in promoting exchange, coordination and capacity building support in research.
Asian Peasant Coalition (APC)
APC is a regional network of peasants, agricultural workers, dalits, pastoralist, indigenous peoples, peasant women and rural youth representing more than 15 million members coming from 34 organizations in 9 countries in Asia. The APC advocates for genuine agrarian reform and food sovereignty.
Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID)
AWID is an international, feminist, membership organization committed to achieving gender equality, sustainable development and women's human rights. A dynamic network of women and men around the world, AWID members are researchers, academics, students, educators, activists, business people, policy-makers, development practitioners, funders, and more.
Association pour la Taxation des Transactions financière et l'Aide aux Citoyens - (ATTAC) European Network
ATTAC is an international organization involved in the alter-globalization movement. We oppose neo-liberal globalization and develop social, ecological, and democratic alternatives so as to guarantee fundamental rights for all.
Centrepour la Defense des Droits de l'Homme et de la Democratie en Afrique(CDDHDA)
CDDHDA works to ensure fundamental of Human Rights of individuals and the people are not violated in Africa and genuine democracy is established in every country in the continent.
Committee for the Cancellation of the Third World Debt (CADTM)
CADTM is an international network of individuals and local committees from across Europe and Latin America, Africa and Asia. It was founded in Belgium on 15th March 1990. Its main preoccupation, besides the debt issue, is the planning of activities and radical alternatives for the creation of a world respectful of people’s fundamental rights, needs and liberties.
Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Trabajadores de los Servicios Públicos (CLATSEP)
CLATSEP es una organización regional de América Latina y el Caribe, con presencia en 15 países de la región, creada en 1970, en ese momento dentro de la CLAT para proteger los derechos de los trabajadores de los servicios públicos y privados. Hoy en día es independiente e integrada de sus afiliados con el ISP, el CLATE.
Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN)
DAWN is a network of feminist scholars, researchers and activists from the economic South working for economic and gender justice and sustainable and democratic development.
Dignity International’s vision is of a world in which everyone enjoys human rights and lives in dignity; free from fear, poverty and discrimination. Dignity International advocates with, connects, and supports the empowerment of deprived and struggling communities in claiming their human rights, and creating social justice around the world.
Eastern and Southern Africa Small-scale Farmer’s Forum (ESAFF)
ESAFF is a network of small holder farmers that advocate for policy, practice and attitude change that reflects the needs, aspirations, and development of small-scale farmers in east and southern Africa. ESAFF operates in 13 countries.
Education International (EI)
Education International is the global federation of unions representing 30 million teachers and education workers in more than 170 countries and territories.
European Federation of Public Services Unions (EPSU)
EPSU is the largest federation of the ETUC and comprises 8 million public service workers from over 265 trade unions; EPSU organises workers in the energy, water and waste sectors, health and social services and local and national administration, in all European countries including in the EU’s Eastern Neighborhood. EPSU is the recognized regional organization of Public Services International (PSI).
European Water Movement
The European Water Movement is an open, inclusive and pluralistic network whose goal is to reinforce the recognition of water as a commons and as a fundamental universal right. The movement is united to fight against privatisation and commodification of this vital good, and to construct a public and communal management of water, founded on the democratic participation of citizens and of workers.
Food & Water Europe monitors the practices of multinational corporations that impact our food and water. We work with grassroots organizations around the world to create a genuinely economically and environmentally viable future.
IBON initiates and implements international programs, develops and hosts international networks, initiates and participates in international advocacy campaigns, and establishes regional and country offices. IBON strengthens links between local campaigns and advocacies to international initiatives.
Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL)
The IPMSDL is comprised of indigenous leaders and advocates from different countries in Asia, Pacific, Australia, Africa, Europe and North America. The IPMSDL stands for the right of indigenous peoples to govern ourselves and for liberation from imperialism, state oppression and human rights violations.
IndustriALL Global Union
IndustriALL Global Union represents 50 million workers in 140 countries in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors and is a new force in global solidarity taking up the fight for better working conditions and trade union rights around the world.
IPA is to channel our resources so that we can speak and act in partnership with others for global justice.IPA is present in 22 countries, both of North and South.
International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF)
The IUF is currently composed of 385 trade unions in 123 countries representing a combined representational membership of over 12 million workers (including a financial membership of 2.6 million). It is based in Geneva, Switzerland.
La Internacional de Servicios Publicos Americas- ISP Americas
In North, Central and South America and the Caribbean, 140 labor organizations in 35 countries are affiliated to PSI, with a total membership of about 3.3 million workers. The regional office is currently based in São Paulo, Brazil.
Latin American Confederation of Cooperatives and Mutual (COLACOT)
International organization of cooperatives and mutuals in 22 countries in Latin America, driving the Model Social Solidarity Economy to Neoliberalism.
LDC Watch is a global alliance of national, regional and international civil society organisations (CSOs), networks and movements based in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
Marcha Mundial de las Mujeres/World March of Women
The World March of Women is an international feminist action movement connecting grass-roots groups and organizations working to eliminate the causes at the root of poverty and violence against women.
Mesa de Coordinación Latinoamericana de Comercio Justo-RIPESS LAC (región América Latina)
Integrada por organizaciones de comercio justo de Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, México, Perú y Uruguay. Sus tareas: articular experiencias; desarrollo de mercados; difusión de la propuesta; e incidencia política.
Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG)
PANG is a Pacific regional network promoting economic justice in globalisation with specific attention to:1) Accountability and transparency in economic and trade policy processes, 2) Poverty eradication, 3) Equitable development and sustainable livelihoods (opportunity, access, impact) and 4) Food sovereignty and environmental sustainability.
Global network of Catholic leaders committed to justice, peace and creation.
Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD)
La PIDHDD es un actor político, conformado por Capítulos Nacionales que articulan organizaciones sociales e instituciones de la sociedad civil, que promueve la plena vigencia y realización de los derechos humanos; Actualmente, se cuenta con capítulos nacionales constituidos y en funcionamiento en 16 países del continente americano: Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil, Chile, Colombia, Dominicana, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haití, Guatemala, México, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Perú, Uruguay y Venezuela.
Public Services International (PSI)
Public Services International (PSI) is a global trade union federation dedicated to promoting quality public services in every part of the world. PSI brings together more than 20 million workers, represented by 650 unions in 150 countries and territories.
Public Services International (PSI) - Central America, Mexico and Dominican Republic
In Central America, Mexico and the Dominican Republic 44 labor organizations in 8 countries are affiliated to PSI with a total membership of about 138,024 workers. The Subregional office is currently based in San José, Costa Rica.
Red Latinoamericana Mujeres Transformando la Economía (REMTE)
REMTE es un espacio de articulación de redes y núcleos nacionales de once países de la región, en el que participan mujeres urbanas y rurales, de ámbitos académicos, ONG y organizaciones de base. Su propósito es contribuir a la apropiación crítica de la economía por parte de las mujeres, y a la búsqueda de alternativas basadas en la justicia económica y la justicia de género.
South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE)
An alliance to fight against poverty and injustice in South Asia comprising journalists, academics, trade unionists, human rights activists, NGOs and other civil society actors across the region.
Southern and Eastern African Trade, Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI)
An African initiative to strengthen Africa's capacity to take a more effective part in the emerging global trading system and to better manage the process of Globalization.
The Transnational Institute (TNI) of Policy Studies carries out radical informed analysis on critical global issues builds alliances with social movements develops proposals for a more sustainable, just and democratic world.
UNI Europa is a European trade union federation. It unites national trade unions organising in service and skills sectors in 50 different countries. With 320 affiliated trade union organisations, UNI Europa represents 7 million workers in key service sectors.
UNI Global Union
UNI Global Union is the voice of 20 million service sector workers around the world. Through 900 affiliated unions, in 150 countries UNI represents workers in the Cleaning & Security; Commerce; Finance; Gaming; Graphical & Packaging; Hair & Beauty; ICTS; Media, Entertainment & Arts; Post & Logistics; Social Insurance; Sport; Temp & Agency Workers and Tourism industries.
WIDE+ is the network that follows up the previous WIDE network, composed of feminists, NGO's, researchers, etc. that advocate for a socially just economy.