Viviane Reding sets out European Parliament “red lines” for TiSA

Viviane Reding: official portrait.  Credit: European Parliament.

Viviane Reding: official portrait.
Credit: European Parliament.

Transparency, public services, liberalisation of the cross-border movement of construction and road transport workers, and data protection, are among the key items flagged by the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), a deal currently under negotiation in Geneva among more than twenty World Trade Organization (WTO) members.

 

 

 

 

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The member of the European Parliament (MEP) overseeing the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) dossier layed down her vision today for the trade deal under negotiation by 23 countries since 2013.

 

Viviane Reding, a former vice-president of the European Commission and the deal file’s rapporteur in the European Parliement’s (EP) international trade committee, called the agreement “a chance for Europe”. In her first public statement on TiSA at the European Parliament in Strasbourg today, she called for more transparency in the negotiating process. TiSA “cannot be negotiated in an ivory tower”, Ms Reding said.

 

The MEP stated that the deal must first and foremost ensure “reciprocity”. The EU must obtain significant access to foreign services markets to matter for European jobs and growth: “it has to be a win-win agreement” she said, referring to what she sees as an “imbalance” between the EU’s services sector’s openness and many TiSA members’ much closer markets.

 

“TiSA must also create international standards which are in the interest of our companies”, so Reding, citing telecommunications, air and maritime services, transport, and financial services. “Our aim is really to export European standards, not to abolish European standards”, TiSA’s rapporteur added.

 

The agreement should secure agreements for European citizens, such as lower roaming charges on non-EU trips, more passenger rights, and online banking and online consumer protections.

 

Ms Reding regretted the current exclusion of China in TiSA. “China must be granted access to the negotiating table”, she said citing the Chinese economy’s size and potential as major market for European services exporters.

 

TiSA must have a strong state-to-state dispute resolution mechanism, she said, referring to the model provided by the WTO, outside of which TiSA is currently being negotiated.

 

“Red lines”

 

To obtain the EP’s approval, Ms Reding set out what she termed “red lines” for TiSA: public services, notably health, education and water should be excluded from liberalisation. “These are not for sale”, she said.

 

“TiSA should not include a chapter on the movement of natural persons”, so MEP Reding, who also said “the right to regulate must be fully and unconditionally preserved”, and to be enshrined in every single TiSA chapter.

 

Without mentioning these, but in response to requests made to the EU by some TiSA partners, not least by the EU’s neighbour Turkey, to liberalise the movement of personnel on a temporary basis, she said: “no social dumping in the construction sector and in road transport. Our deregulation should not go as far as to open the doors in those sectors because that would be very bad for competition, it would be very bad for the health and security of the workers and in the transport sector on the security for the people on our streets”.

 

A final “red line” for Mr Reding is data privacy. Referring to the recent leak of a US submission to TiSA partners on digital services, she said “I am rather worried when I see what is going on so far”. She added:  “We will not accept that through the backdoor our established rules shall  be wiped out”.

 

TiSA is a response to fledgling trade liberalisation discussions in the WTO Doha round. A subset of the multilateral body’s members set out to agree on a trade agreement for a growing sector, but the international exchange of services is comparatively less open than trade in goods. TiSA members want to draw a WTO-compatible agreement that could be integrated into the body’s rules at a later stage.

 

European businesses in particular are seen as particularly competitive in services and keen to obtain better conditions to access foreign markets. Services account for almost one fourth of EU exports.

 

TiSA does not include the world’s biggest emerging market, such as India, Brazil or China. The EU has responded positively to Chinese demands to be part of TiSA but the United States, has opposed this accession.

 

TiSA has been criticised by civil society groups on issues like data privacy, potential risks to the quality of public services and perceived threats to data privacy. The transparency of negotiations has also been strongly criticised by these groups as well as non WTO members which are not parties to TiSA.

 

Under the 2009 Lisbon Treaty organising the EU’s institutions’ functioning, the European Parliament has equal powers with the bloc’s member states in ratifying trade agreements. As a result the EP has a de facto veto power over Europe’s trade deals.

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