Yesterday Wikileaks posted 17 texts and documents from the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) negotiations (www.wikileaks.org/tisa). We reckon it is the largest leak from a so-called ‘trade’ negotiation ever – let alone one shrouded in even a greater level of secrecy than the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
For those not familiar with this latest four letter acronym from the weird world of trade negotiations, TISA is a strategy of the US, EU and 22 other mainly rich countries, including New Zealand, to draft a new set of global rules for services transnationals to maximise their profits and minimise their regulation. They are trying to negotiate this among a self-selected group of fellow travellers after they were rebuffed in the World Trade Organisation.
All the background documents tabled during the TISA negotiations are supposed to be kept secret for five years after the deal comes into force or the last round of negotiations (the TPPA is four years). Given the countries involved that was never going to happen. Indeed, some governments at the TISA table are already ignoring their own pact and releasing their documents unilaterally.
I suspect that leaks will beget more leaks until they face the reality, as they had to with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), and abandon their secrecy pact. There is a stocktaking meeting in Geneva early July, which would be the sensible time to do that. But sense doesn’t tend to prevail until the leaks have put their back against the wall.
The furore that has broken out internationally over the leaked documents is creating that momentum. They cover a wide range of services, from finance, post and transport to professional services and domestic regulation, which had got many affected sectors riled. The wikileak has also featured prominently in many mainstream media.
It hit the headlines in Turkey, Spain, Greece, Italy I am told. The Sydney Morning Herald, hardly a leftie rag, reported that the documents reveal ‘Australia is pushing for extensive international financial deregulation while other proposals could see Australians’ personal and financial data freely transferred overseas. The secret trade documents also show Australia could allow an influx of foreign professional workers and see a sharp wind back in the ability of government to regulate qualifications, licensing and technical standards including in relation to health, environment and transport services.’
Radio NZ Checkpoint gave good coverage here. The PM’s predictable response was to slag me off and then assure everyone: “We’ll make sure in the end that we do the best deal we can for New Zealand.” The TPPA mantra revisited … and they seem to have learned nothing from the fact their secrecy has made people more suspicious, not less.
As CTU economist Bill Rosenberg said: ‘We’d be up-in-arms if any legislation could be put into effect without us having any ability to have a serious look at what is in it.’
PSA has called on the Government to ‘come clean on New Zealand’s role in negotiating the secretive Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), which could remove New Zealanders rights to quality, well regulated public services.’
First Union general secretary Robert Reid described the negotiations as a backdoor to widespread deregulation. “This not only facilitates privatisation, but the deregulation of services and gives carte blanche to big financial institutions and multinational corporations to come in, buy up, charge what they like… without the Government having any say any more.
Just as growing numbers of Kiwis have challenged the back door dealings in the TPPA, we need them to send the same message over TISA and any other secret negotiation over which we are given no say.