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EU: Concerns of weakening public services

07 November 2012
Threats are posed to public services in the negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada.

"We draw your attention to new threats posed to public services in the negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada," writes the European Federation of Public Services (EPSU) in a circular dated October 31. And further:

"The European Commission (EC) has presented to the Trade Policy Committee (TPC) three options for dealing with public services in CETA.

The EC considers that “..it would be desirable for the chosen option to provide an optimal solution appropriate for other negotiations as well” indicating the significance of CETA for future bilateral - and multilateral - negotiations. However, the three options are not equivalent and only the third option (option (c) that maintains the current EU position) would be acceptable. Weakening the existing ‘public utilities’ reservation - which in practice is broader than the concept ‘public utilities’ implies – would reduce the policy space of governments to regulate public services and to provide these services to citizens.

From our understanding of discussions in the TPC, a sizeable number of governments share our concerns and have indicated that they wish to maintain the current position on public services. However, we do not know if any guarantees have been given about this and there is apparently pressure on governments to conclude the CETA by the end of the year.

This being the case, it would be helpful if you would raise with your government and/or your confederation our concerns about any weakening of the current ‘public utilities’ clause.

Both EU and Canadian citizens need to see broad exclusions of public services from CETA and the maintenance of sufficient policy space to define and regulate public services in the future1. Any weakening of the current EU position would represent a step backwards and it would further reduce policy space for public authorities, and especially local authorities, to provide and regulate public services in the general interest."

To read the full circular - see the attached document (Pdf).

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