While attention focuses on the fate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) many of its key elements have been flipped across to the equally secretive negotiations in Geneva for the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). Some parts of TiSA go even further, according to University of Auckland law professor Jane Kelsey.
Trade Ministers from the 23 negotiating parties, including the US, EU, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, plan to meet in Geneva on 5-6 December when they hope to wind up a deal that has remained largely under the radar.
‘I was in Geneva last month and met with a number of government delegations. They confirmed that TiSA is intended as a “21st century” deal for transnational corporations. The new focus is on e-services, which will benefit the digital behemoths like Google, Amazon and Uber’, Professor Kelsey said.
‘Their goal, as with TPPA, is to put handcuffs on future governments’ right to regulate. Perhaps the most frightening would pre-empt governments from regulating so-called “new services”, including as yet unknown new technologies.’
‘Equally worrying, given this country’s litany of failed deregulation, privatisation and free market experiments in services, is the idea that treatment of foreign firms should never be less liberal than now (‘standstill’) and any future liberalisation should be locked in automatically (“ratchet).’
As with the TPPA information on TiSA relies largely on a steady stream of leaks posted on Wikileaks and more recently by Greenpeace on energy services.
‘Trade Minister Todd McClay made much of his plan to be much more open about future negotiations, but he has retreated further down the rabbit hole’, according to Professor Kelsey.
The EU, Norway, Switzerland and some others have published what they are offering the other countries, as was done in earlier WTO negotiations on services – including by New Zealand.
McClay has refused to do the same, citing the need to protect future negotiations. Professor Kelsey described that as ‘spurious nonsense designed to prevent in-depth scrutiny of what New Zealand is up to before we are presented with another done deal.’
‘TiSA could have more direct impacts on New Zealand’s future policy space than the TPPA. We know, for example, New Zealand has been pushing hard to get other countries to lock open their doors to private education providers. I assume they are promising to do the same. The non-discrimination rule may see proposed legislation to guarantee public subsidies to private providers, including foreign education firms, locked in without the possibility of change.’