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Why trade agreements are a new global threat to public services

August 08, 2013
New deals, new danger
Recently, the way trade deals are negotiated has changed from WTO multilateral negotiations where hundreds of countries negotiated one agreement and information about negotiations was publically available, to hundreds of separate secret negotiations held behind closed doors.
The secret nature of trade talks held outside of the WTO creates a new challenge for PSI. We must focus our activity on the key threats and better engage and support our affiliates and civil society in the key stakeholder countries.

We must ensure that trade agreements are not used to open public services to private commercial activities but are used to contribute to the application of international labour standards to protect workers’ rights.

Three major agreements, and two WTO meetings, are the focus of PSI activity on trade. These issues affect many affiliates in many countries and we ask you to take action, as outlined below. For further information, please download GEN Circular 8. The circular has also been sent to all PSI affiliates.

Trade in Services Agreement (TISA)

The TISA is a new treaty to further liberalise trade and investment in services. It is the follow-up to the previous General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The treaty rules would increase foreign corporate control over domestic services and would restrict governments’ ability to regulate services, essentially changing the regulation of many public, privatized or commercial services from serving the public interest to serving the profit interests of private, foreign corporations.

PSI has published a short briefing note on TISA, outlining some of the key areas that potentially would affect public sector workers in the new agreement.

The countries currently involved are: Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Pakistan, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, the United States, and the 27 member states of the European Union. However, these negotiations will affect all PSI affiliates; if such an agreement is concluded, it will create a powerful new standard for liberalising services through trade agreements across the globe.

You can take immediate action by endorsing the sign-on letter concerning TISA, addressed to trade ministers, produced by PSI in conjunction with our allies at the Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS) network. Please send organisational endorsement, with country, to manicandan@gmail.com with a copy to Pauline.Chase@world-psi.org

If you are in a country involved in the TISA talks, we urge you to become involved in our activities. Please forward contact details of your union representative to Daniel.Bertossa@world-psi.org.

Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA)

Many PSI affiliates, in partnership with civil society, have been active in opposing the harmful provisions of the TPPA. To better co-ordinate this activity, PSI affiliates have started to meet by teleconference to share information and co-ordinate our actions. The TPPA affects the following countries: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States.

PSI is seeking information about trade union and civil society activity in these countries. If you are in a country that is affected by the TPPA and would like more information, or to become involved, please contact Daniel.Bertossa@world-psi.org.

Trade Facilitiation Agreement (TFA)

The TFA aims to liberalise the customs, ports and regulatory environment for imports to countries. It would create new markets in customs and shipment processing for multinational corporations. It would likely increase pressure to further privatize ports, customs operations and shipment processing, which would leave little or no space for local operators, and which has already led to a loss of jobs, downward pressure on wages and erosion of labour rights for public workers in these sectors. Further, it would restrict the policy space of sovereign governments (especially in the developing world) to pursue development, industry or fiscal objectives.    

A sign-on letter is attached, addressed to members of the WTO, outlining civil society concerns with the TFA. PSI encourages all affiliates, and especially those with customs and ports workers affected by the TFA, to support the letter by sending organisational endorsement, with country, to manicandan@gmail.com and copy Pauline.Chase@world-psi.org

WTO meetings

PSI will be attending the WTO Ministerial meeting in December 2013 and will organise a forum on trade in services at the WTO Public Forum in October 2013. Please click on the meeting title links for further information.

Affiliate actions

It is vital to coordinate affiliate action in individual trade agreements and across World Trade Organization (WTO) activities and better engage our labour and civil society allies in our struggle. Please forward the name and contact details of the person in your union who deals with trade issues to Pauline.Chase@world-psi.org, indicating if you have a particular interest in any of the specific agreements or events mentioned above.

If you have any questions about PSI's trade work, please contact Daniel.Bertossa@world-psi.org.

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