TiSA – a secretly negotiated agreement with secret content

TiSA – a secretly negotiated agreement with secret content

by Dr iur Marianne Wüthrich

Next, what will happen to Switzerland – if we don’t do anything about it – is our slipping into the so-called Free Trade Agreements (TTIP and TiSA). They will, in no way, be concluded for the benefit of the citizens, neither for the benefit of any other involved countries’ citizens. Everything is planned and controlled by the transatlantic Big Brother.
Only a few months ago, the interested citizens learned by some well-informed Internet user that the United States was planning a comprehensive agreement on trade in services, named “Trade in Services Agreement”, short TiSA. By this treaty, they wanted to include as many countries of their choice as possible – the “Really Good Friends”. Understandably, in anti-globalization circles, this name provokes suspicion. The 23 TiSA countries would dominate about 70% of the global service sector. But not only within the left and green circles are the TiSA negotiations arousing discomfort. Recently, the former European Commissioner and Luxembourg Christian Social politician, Viviane Reding, said about TiSA: “This is a time bomb ticking, only nobody detected it, yet.” (Radio SRF, 17.4.2015, Echo der Zeit)
By the way, Switzerland is also among the propitiously elected countries whose service market the United States would like to take over. Since February 2012, the secret negotiations are underway in Geneva, led by the United States, Australia and the EU.
It seems that also our parliamentarians learned rather late about the Swiss participation in the TiSA negotiations – doesn’t the system of non-disclosure work well, indeed! Anyway, the Green Parlamentary Group was active in 2014: By three interpellations, National Councillor Aline Trede (GP BE), representing 11 co-signers, wanted the Federal Council to disclose, on what legal basis the participation of Switzerland was founded, how TiSA differed from GATS, why the negotiations were kept secret and finally: What consequences would the signing of TiSA have on the public services (planned liberalization) and which jurisdiction Switzerland would be subjected to? (14.3102, 14.4160 and 14.4295 Interpellation Trede)
Replies by the Federal Council:
The legal basis was the Doha mandate of 2002 (!), because TiSA would “not fundamentally” differ from GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services). – Is it different or isn’t it?
The rest is drowned in spongy versions as well: Secret negotiations were permitted by law [sic!], everything else is in the stars, for example: “The question of a possible dispute resolution mechanism in TiSA is open and will be the subject of negotiations in due course” (interpellation Trede 14.3102). This means in plain text: We’ll see each other next in front of a US-American so-called “arbitration court”, completely impartial of course!
Further the Federal Council refers to the written submissions of Switzerland in its answer: 14 in number, to be found on the home page of the SECO (http://www.seco.admin.ch), all exclusively in English, as well as two press releases.
How did that go again with the three official languages ​in Switzerland? Each “baloney” is diligently translated by the federal administration; TiSA documents – which are very complex even in German! – can only be read by those citizens who are so “open to the world” that they are able to read the documents in English without any effort?!

Critical citizens put the matter straight

Fortunately, the Swiss are not so easy to deceive. A fine example of the population’s critical opinion is found in an information event of VPOD (Swiss Association of the Staff in Public Services) in front of 30 Basel bus and tram chauffeurs, commented by the Swiss Radio. (SRF 17.04.2015, 6.00 p.m., Echo der Zeit) The union members, speakers and listeners, as well as SRF-editor Massimo Agostinis get to the heart of the matter and explain why they are rightly suspicious about Switzerland’s participation in an agreement initiated by the US and largely concealed to the public.
Because TiSA is not only planned to liberalize the private services sector, i.e. the banking or insurance industry, but also public services could be deregulated, said VPOD-Central Secretary Stefan Giger in his presentation. This would include health care, education or public transport. These are all sectors in which the VPOD has a strong presence. Therefore, it currently is the loudest voice against the TiSA agreement in Switzerland. One of the here present tram drivers voiced his concern over the fact that GATS had already been the starting point for the expansion of liberalization. It is favourable neither for the employees nor for the consumers, i.e. the taxpayers.
Christian Etter, in charge of the foreign trade sector in the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) rejects the VPOD’s allegation that clandestine negotiations were taking place about state services, as well, such as education or health care: “Well, this statement is based on wrong ideas”. However, he is not allowed to put the cards on the table, for the negotiating nations promised each other strict secrecy. Christian Etter points to the homepage of SECO, where all aspects are listed about which Switzerland is not willing to negotiate. They include all of today’s public services like post, public traffic, health care and education systems among others.
Stefan Giger of VPOD replies that it is true that SECO (State Secretariat for Economic Affairs) did not want to negotiate, but additionally to the actual text of the agreement the annexes would include several aspects which Switzerland does not want to have. SECO also says here: “Wrong! An annex applies only if it has been adopted by all.”
TiSA will further restrict the sphere of political action in favor of private enterprise, critics of globalisation insist. The problem is: No one knows whether these cases will actually become more with TiSA, since only very few people know what exactly has been negotiated. And that’s probably the biggest blind spot.
* * *
Comment: Let us once more reflect the statements made by SECO, the State Secretariat in charge of TiSA, (taking into account the hints by the SRF business section that Christian Etter may not lay his cards on the table):
“[...] Unnecessary, unjustified barriers to trade are to be reduced and planning security for the international services business is to be increased”.
This refers to trade barriers that have been erected by the legislation of the national states to protect their own economy: The interests of multinationals are to be given preferential treatment to national laws; planning security means that the globalized multinationals can plan their investments for several years in advance without running the risk to be hindered to realize them by appropriate national legislation.
As to the union VPOD’s suspicion that through the back door also state services such as education or health might be negotiated; the answer: “Well, this idea is based on misconceptions.”
Since the SECO cannot or does not want to put its cards on the table, the question which of the above-mentioned “ideas” are correct or false, remains unanswered.
Neither do the Basel VPOD members nor do we know what is right or wrong. The citizens have to speak out together with the Green Parlamentary Group in Berne and the Basel, bus and tram chauffeurs and must request a stop of these negotiations which would certainly enable a run of the large global corporations onto the service business in Switzerland and in many other countries, but which would also be much to the detriment of our SMEs, employees, consumers and our high-quality public service.     •

Motion “TiSA. Service public is non-negotiable “

With the Motion “TiSA. Service public is non-negotiable” (No. 14.3368 of 8 May 2014, which has not yet been negotiated in plenary) the Green Parliamentary Group made submitted two very clear requests to the Federal Council a year ago:

  1. “The Federal Council must guarantee that no services of the public service will be offered in the TISA negotiations.
  2. The Federal Council is mandated to disclose the negotiation mandate of SECO concerning TISA at least to the relevant committees [of the National Council and the Council of States, note by Current Concerns].”

The response of the Federal Council gives rise to the highest concern: After repeating the above-mentioned strategies of obscuring the facts the lapidary sentence follows: “The Federal Council requests the rejection of the motion.”
In plain English: First the Federal Council refuses to ensure the protection of the public service against liberalization / privatization.
Secondly the Federal Council insists on its claim that it had received the mandate for its secret TISA negotiations 12 years ago by the parliament, not for TISA negotiations, but for something similar.
It is now up to the National Council and the Council of States to put the Federal Council in its place.

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