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EU Parliament sends warning signals to ongoing TiSA negotiation round

The 16th TiSA negotiation round, concerning the controversial international Trade in Services Agreement, is currently taking place far away from the public. With its now adopted TiSA resolution, the European Parliament (EP) is now sending a counter signal: there shall be increased transparency and protection of public services, no social dumping and safeguarding of regulations in the public interest. However, the resolution leaves loopholes, which still gives the negotiating European Commission too much room for manoeuvre.

This week, the principles governing the TiSA Report of the Trade Committee of the European Parliament have been adopted by a vote in the plenary. The AK already drew attention to the problematic loopholes in the report some time ago.

Yesterday, the plenary made important improvements. The European Parliament now rejects the use of so-called “standstill” and “ratchet clauses” in TiSA. This might result in significant problems for the negotiating European Commission: the actual implementation of the EP resolution would entail the complete removal of these clauses from the TiSA treaty text and the EU schedules of commitments. However, the resolution does not explicitly bind the European Commission to the multilateral negotiation standard of the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), the so-called “positive list approach” (the liberalisation commitments of the respective service sectors – in contrast to the general approach of the “negative list” – must be exactly specified). There was also no improvement with regard to the integration of reliable criteria for a complete removal of public services from the scope of TiSA. Concerning the actual implementation of recommendations for a model clause for the protection of public services, it remains vital to ensure that this will apply to all contractual provisions of such agreements.

Two further improvements concern the issue of ILO Labour Standards and the recommendation of including a “revision clause”. The European Parliament's request now is to ensure that all TiSA contracting parties ratify and “effectively implement” the ILO Core Labour Standards (before: “respect”). However, the demand for the ability to enforce and sanction – as previously demanded in the recommendations of the Employment Committee – is not included. Apart from that, Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström made it already clear at the start of the EP debate that a binding integration of ILO Standards was not compatible with TiSA and GATS.

Finally, in particular the new demand to ensure a revision clause in TiSA will ensure further discussion. The EP requests “to include a revision clause establishing a mechanism that would allow a party to leave the agreement or to suspend or reverse commitments concerning the liberalisation of a service, particularly in the event of infringements of labour and social standards”.


Apart from the EU and the US, there are another 21 countries participating in the TiSA negotiations. This group of states calls itself “Really Good Friends of Services” and has made it its target to achieve a comprehensive liberalisation of the international service sector. TiSA negotiations have been taking place for more than three years and shall now come up to the finishing straight: the negotiators declared their intention during a meeting at the World Economic Forum to conclude TiSA by the end of the year.

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European Union 2015 - Source: EP