The TPP is not dead: It lives on in the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA)

by | Feb 14, 2017

This article originally appeared at Anti-Media.


While many are still breathing a sigh of relief that President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, some are noting that the world is nowhere near out of the woods yet. There’s another deal being negotiated right now, and this one may be even scarier than TPP. And like the TPP, it’s been quietly cobbled together behind closed doors for years.

The Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), which governments began crafting in 2012, represents 50 participating countries around the world. Before examining the text of agreement, however, it should be noted that TISA is largely a U.S.-E.U. deal and excludes some notable global players, as Glyn Moody highlighted for Ars Technica in 2015:

“Significantly, all the BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa — are absent, and are therefore unable to provide their perspective and input for what is essentially a deal designed by Western nations, for the benefit of Western corporations.”

As TISA is described on its page at the European Commission’s website:

“TiSA aims at opening up markets and improving rules such as licensing, financial services, telecoms, e-commerce, maritime transport, and professionals moving abroad temporarily to provide services.”

But many analysts are concerned that TISA’s aim of “improving rules” is really only about corporations tightening their grip on their respective industries. Deborah James, writing for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, concluded in November of last year:

“The TISA is intended to lock in a system of rules to allow multinational companies to operate in a borderless digitized environment with minimal regulation and maximum rights regarding the treatment of labor, capital, inputs, and the new key element of data.”

Continuing, she states:

“As promoted by the multinational financial, logistics, and big data corporations through Team TISA, the agreement would set severe limits on the ways that governments can regulate domestic economies, removing key tools of economic management and the ability to shape the service economy while providing an extensive corporate bill of rights for multinational companies’ operations across the globe.”

A corporate bill of rights.

The fact that we know anything at all about TISA is due largely to a series of data dumps from WikiLeaks beginning in 2014, then another later publication from, an organization dedicated to shedding light on trade negotiations taking place outside the scope of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

For their part, governments participating in TISA have been reluctant to post updates on the status of negotiations — if they decide to inform their citizens about the deal at all.

Canada’s last update, for instance, is from June, and it says vaguely that “Parties conducted a stocktaking session to assess the level of progress on all issues. On the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative site, TISA is still described as being “part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing effort to create economic opportunity for U.S. workers and businesses by expanding trade opportunities.”

Given that TISA would do things such as prohibit regulation of the financial industry, including proven-harmful instruments like derivatives — and even, shockingly, instruments and products that have yet to be invented — curtail efforts to safeguard online and digital privacy, and effectively eliminate net neutrality, it’s not surprising that governments haven’t been advertising the deal.

In fact, many are noting that TISA is nothing more than an updated — and reinforced — version of the TPP., noting that despite its unpopularity, the TPP is still being used as the model for TISA, explains:

“Several proposed texts from the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement have been transferred to TISA — including state-owned enterprises; rights to hold data offshore (including financial data); e-commerce; and prohibitions on performance requirements for foreign investors.”

While these proposals originated in the U.S., which has since pulled out of the deal, points out that “they appear to be supported by other members of the TPP” and, as such, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, through the Trade in Services Agreement, still has the potential to become the “new norm.”

And to that idea, the organization concluded quite succinctly:

“TPP cannot be allowed to become the new ‘default’ position for these flawed agreements.”

James Holbrooks

James Holbrooks

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