Meet TISA, ‘Secret Privatisation Pact Posing Threat To Democracy’

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Above Photo: Anti-TTIP protests have brought thousands onto the streets across Europe, while the TISA talks have gone largely unnoticed Getty

Government insists ‘public services are under no threat whatsoever from this deal’

An international trade deal being negotiated in secret is a “turbo-charged privatisation pact” that poses a threat to democratic sovereignty and “the very concept of public services”, campaigners have warned.

But this is not TTIP – the international agreement it appears campaigners in the European Union have managed to scupper over similar concerns – this is TISA, a deal backed by some of the world’s biggest corporations, such as Microsoft, Google, IBM, Walt Disney, Walmart, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase.

Few people may have heard of the Trade In Services Agreement, but campaign group Global Justice Now warns in a new report: “Defeating TTIP may amount to a pyrrhic victory if we allow TISA to pass without challenge.”

Like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TISA is being negotiated in secret, even though it could have a major impact on countries which sign up.

While TTIP is only between the EU and US, those behind TISA have global ambitions as it involves most of the world’s major economies – with the notable exceptions of China and Russia – in a group they call the “Really Good Friends of Services”.

The Department for International Trade dismissed the idea that public services were at risk from TISA, adding that the UK was committed to securing an “ambitious” deal.

But according to Global Justice Now’s report, the deal could “lock in privatisation of public services”; allow “casino capitalism” by undermining financial regulations designed to prevent a recurrence of the 2008 recession; threaten online privacy; damage efforts to fight climate change; and prevent developing countries from improving public services.

Nick Dearden, director of group, said: “This deal is a threat to the very concept of public services. It is a turbo-charged privatisation pact, based on the idea that rather than serving the public interest, governments must step out of the way and allow corporations to ‘get on with it’.

“Of particular concern, we fear TISA will include clauses that will prevent governments taking public control of strategic services, and inhibit regulation of the very banks that created the financial crash.”

He suggested pro-Brexit voters should be concerned at the potential loss of sovereignty.

“Many people were persuaded to leave the EU on the grounds they would be ‘taking back control’ of our economic policy,” Mr Dearden said.

“But if we sign up to TISA, our ability to control our economy – to regulate, to protect public services, to fight climate change – is massively reduced. In effect, we would be handing large swathes of policy-making to big business. “

The report says the widespread opposition to TTIP, a deal between only the EU and US, had not yet been repeated over TISA.

“It is vital for elected representatives, campaigners and ordinary citizens to unite against this threat,” it adds.

“TISA threatens public services. From postal services to the NHS, TISA could lock in privatisation and ensure that big multinationals increasingly call the shots on areas like health, education and basic utilities.”

A so-called “ratchet” clause in the deal means that after a service – like trains or water or energy – is privatised, this is almost impossible to reverse even if it fails.

According to the report, a “standstill” clause also means “no new regulation can be passed that gives foreign companies worse treatment” than when TISA is passed.

“Taken together, the standstill and ratchet clauses could make it much harder for a future government to renationalise the railways, a move backed by a majority of the British public,” it says.

“Similarly, it could mean that the creeping privatisation of the NHS becomes more and more irreversible with greater involvement of companies from countries like the US. And forget taking control of the electricity system back from the big six energy firms.”