Leaked documents justify workers concerns about secret trade talks

photo: Photo Steve Rhodes

The ITUC has called on the United States, the European Union and other negotiating partners to build a trading system for the common good, after recent leaks from secret trade negotiations revealed worrying details for workers.

The International Trades Union Confederation is concerned by the leaked documents, published by whistleblowing website Wikileaks, which revealed how the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) will further consolidate corporate power and threaten the public interest.

Of particular concern were plans for further deregulation and liberalisation impacting the public sector and transport industries; and, provisions that force countries to eliminate foreign ownership ceilings in publicly provided telecommunications and favour privatization.

The leaks prove workers and their unions worldwide were right to be concerned by the secret negotiations currently hammering out the trade agreement between the US, the EU and 22 other mostly South American countries.

“Trade deals being done behind closed doors are setting up working people to lose out and aiming to concentrate yet more power and wealth in the hands of multinational corporations, at the expense of the common good,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

“With big majorities of people in ITUC Global Poll results showing deep concern over the influence of major corporations, governments need to turn their attention to building a trading system that works for the common good.

“These documents reveal that in its current form TiSA could jeopardise quality public services and redesign the services economy on a global scale with consequences that worringly are not fully known except by their corporate backers.

“Another major concern is the push for ‘competitive neutrality’. This seemingly innocuous phrase means that providing public services can be deemed an unfair trading practice if it actually or even by perception disadvantages a private provider.”
Under TiSA, governments are planning to grant market access and national treatment to foreign service providers and operators in many service fields including telecommunications, transportation, delivery and various professional services such as architecture, engineering, medical, auditing, and legal.

The International Transport Federation reacted to the leaked chapters regarding air, maritime and express delivery by stressing that “the charade of moving to more open competition offers various ways to give the global majors more clout over newer global entrants.”

“This text would supercharge the most powerful companies in the transport industry, giving them preferential treatment,” ITF president Paddy Crumlin said. “What’s missing from this equation is any value at all for workers and citizens. It creates serious barriers for any state wanting to invest in, manage and operate its national infrastructure or, crucially, to defend decent work and decent terms and conditions across transport.

PSI general secretary Rosa Pavanelli stated: “Both the European Union and the United States of America have made broad statements about the protections afforded public services but these leaks provide little support for that claim.”

UNI Global Union general secretary Philip Jennings has stressed the danger of “standstill” and “ratchet” clauses, which effectively ensure governments are no longer free to implement more regulation and ensure that governments cannot turn back liberalisation down the track.