Nations participating in the Trade in Services Agreement. Via Wikipedia.
Barack Obama isn’t a liberal, isn’t a liberal politician like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who called for the creation of public institutions to help lift the nation out of economic misery.
No Barack Obama is a neoliberal, an heir to the tradition embraced as national policy by Bill Clinton, who pushed ruthlessly for elimination of public assistance programs created under Roosevelt and replacing them with privately owned counterparts.
And now the Obama administration is pushing for the end of a host of public institutions on a global scale, with everything from post offices [and the postal banks embraced in some nations], hospitals, and more up for privatization.
And with either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the White House, that agenda is certain to roll forward.
What proof do we offer for our claims?
Consider the Trade in Services Agreement [TiSA], now in final stages of negotiations by representatives of 23 nations, including the European Union.
From Vice News:
WikiLeaks has released a thousands of documents that critics of free trade said shows how officials negotiating the Trade in Services Agreement, or TiSA, could force privatization on public institutions around the world.
The most surprising revelations in the WikiLeaks documents released this week involve state-owned enterprises, or SOEs — government-owned corporations that often operate like private businesses but pursue public goals, experts said.
The United States Postal Service might be considered a SOE. The service has a monopoly on snail mail. But it also competes against private companies by selling money orders, retail merchandise and express deliveries. When the postal service needs more money, it raises the price of stamps and other products or, when times are desperate, goes hat in hand to Congress.
WikiLeaks and others claim that negotiators from the United States and 22 other countries want to erode SOEs to clear the way for multinational corporations to take over their functions. TiSA would seek to lower trade barriers for finance, telecommunications and other service industries. It would cover around 75 percent of the world’s $44 trillion services market, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative.
Here’s the Wikileaks announcement, and the link to the documents:
WikiLeaks releases new secret documents from the huge Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) which is being negotiated by the US, EU and 22 other countries that account for 2/3rds of global GDP.
This release includes a previously unknown annex to the TiSA core chapter on “State Owned Enterprises” (SOEs), which imposes unprecedented restrictions on SOEs and will force majority owned SOEs to operate like private sector businesses. This corporatisation of public services – to nearly the same extent as demanded by the recently signed TPP – is a next step to privatisation of SOEs on the neoliberal agenda behind the “Big Three” (TTIP,TiSA,TPP).
Other documents in todays release cover updated versions of annexes to TiSA core chapters that were published by WikiLeaks in previous releases; these updates show the advances in the confidential negotiations between the TiSA parties on the issues of Domestic Regulation, New Provisions, Transparency, Electronic Commerce, Financial Services, Telecommunication Services, Professional Services and the Movement of Natural Persons. WikiLeaks is also publishing expert analyses on some of these documents.
The annexes on Domestic Regulation, Transparency and New Provisions have further advanced towards the “deregulation” objectives of big corporations entering overseas markets. Local regulations like store size restrictions or hours of operations are considered an obstacle to achieve “operating efficiencies” of large-scale retailing, disregarding their public benefit that foster livable neighbors and reasonable hours of work for employees. The TiSA provisions in their current form will establish a wide range of new grounds for domestic regulations to be challenged by corporations – even those without a local presence in that country.
Wikileaks offers a sobering analysis
Along with the documents Wikileaks posted are analyses of each of the documents. Professor Jane Kelsey, of University of Auckland’s Faculty of Law provided the analysis on State Owned Enterprises [SOEs] provisions, and the document is sobering:
On 6 October 2015 the US proposed an Annex on SOEs for the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) – two days after the 12 parties to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), including the US, concluded their negotiations. The TPPA contains a unique Chapter 17 that imposes unprecedented restrictions on SOEs and gives the parties to the TPPA rights to demand information on other parties’ SOEs and to challenge aspects of their operations.
When the TPPA negotiations began in 2010 the US made it clear that it required a chapter on SOEs. The goal was always to create precedent-setting rules that could target China, although the US also had other countries’ SOEs in its sights – the state-managed Vietnamese economy, various countries’ sovereign wealth funds, and once Japan joined, Japan Post’s banking, insurance and delivery services. All the other countries were reluctant to concede the need for such a chapter and the talks went around in circles for several years. Eventually the US had its way.
The US proposal for TISA adopts and adapts key parts of the TPPA chapter that force majority owned SOEs to operate like private sector businesses. The most extreme, complicated and potentially unworkable provisions in the TPPA relating to state support are not included – yet. But there is an extraordinary power for a single TISA party to require the development of those rules if another TISA country, or a country seeking to join TISA, has too many large SOEs. China is the real target of the US’s ‘disciplines’ on SOEs in both TISA and the TPPA, along with any other countries that have a strong presence of state companies in their economy. As President Obama said of the TPPA in October 2015, these agreements are about the US making the rules for the global economy in the 21st century, not China, in ways that ‘reflect America’s values.’
Included in the analysis was this summary:
A snapshot of the TISA annex
- The TISA Annex is modelled on the US-driven chapter on State-owned Enterprises (SOEs) in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), concluded on 4 October 2015.
- An SOE must operate like a private business, using purely commercial considerations when it buys and sells services or when it buys goods if it is a services SOE.
- The SOE doesn’t have to apply purely commercial considerations where it has a public mandate to deliver a service, but it still can’t give preferences to local services and suppliers.
- Any administrative body that regulates an SOE must exercise its regulatory discretion impartially in relation to all the entities it regulates.
- If one TISA party thinks that 30 of the largest 100 companies in another TISA member is an SOE, or its SOEs contribute 30% of that country’s overall GDP, it can demand the TISA parties develop further rules that ‘aim to ensure’ it does not provide ‘non-commercial assistance’ (financial support or through goods and services) that cause ‘adverse effects’ to ‘another Party’s interests’. That rule would not apply to domestic services supplied by an SOE, but would apply to its activities that provide services across the border, which are commonly intertwined.
- The same obligation would be triggered if a country with that proportion of SOEs (such as China or India) wanted to join TISA.
- In addition to the general transparency obligations in TISA a government must provide specific information requested about a SOE (although this does not go as far as the requirements in TPPA).
Cui bono? Who are the beneficiaries?
Hint: It’s ain’t the workers and it isn’t the poor.
Among the avid supporters of TiSA is an outfit called the Coalition of Service Industries [CSI]. Here’s how they describe TiSA:
The Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) is the most promising opportunity in two decades to improve and expand trade in services. Initiated by the United States and Australia, the TISA is currently being negotiated in Geneva, Switzerland with 50 participants that represent 70 percent of the world’s trade in services.
As of July 2015, participants in the TISA include Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, the European Union*, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States.
The last major services agreement, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) was established by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995. Since then, the world has evolved dramatically from the result of technological advances, changing business practices, and deeper global integration. The TISA can establish new market access commitments and universal rules that reflect 21st century trade.
And what is the Coalition of Service Industries?
Click on their Members page and here’s what you discover: