Newsflash:
Elizabeth Warren Trans Pacific Partnership What Happens in Geneva…
Tuesday, 12 August 2014 16:26

What Happens in Geneva…

Written by  Cole Stangler | In These Times
Most progressives are, by now, familiar with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the proposed trade deal that would link the United States with Pacific Rim powerhouses like Australia and Japan. Wonkier corners of the left are equally conversant in the intrigue of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a pact that would couple the United States and the European Union.

Like-minded critics would do well by memorizing yet another trade acronym: TISA, or the Trade in Services Agreement. Judging by the stakes and the ultra-secrecy of the negotiations, it could easily be the worst of the bunch.

Here's what we know: Fifty countries, including the United States, the EU nations, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Turkey, have been in TISA talks since 2012. The resulting agreement will set the terms for almost 70 percent of global trade in “services”: everything from banking and construction to telecom and tourism.

The public got its first glimpse of the treaty on June 19, when WikiLeaks published a draft of the agreement's chapter on financial services. It wasn't pretty. The text included proposals to extend new “market access” guarantees to all participating states and fresh limits on the ability of nations to “discriminate” against foreign financial firms. The section hasn't been finalized, but the leak confirmed what TISA skeptics feared the United States and EU are leading the charge to block countries from imposing domestic regulations on the multi-trillion-dollar industry.

“It is astounding that at a time when we are still reeling from the devastating consequences of reckless financial deregulation, our governments are negotiating further deregulation of the financial sector, solely in the interests of large financial corporations,” says Daniel Bertossa, senior policy and advocacy officer at Public Services International (PSI), a global public-sector union federation based in France.

As of yet, that leaked chapter is the only piece of the agreement to go public. In contrast to the TPP or TTIP, U.S. officials have not disclosed the dates or locations of talks ahead of time. (The secretive banking hub of Geneva has hosted all seven rounds.)

“You only have to wonder what’s in there, if they’re so afraid of citizens and civil society and workers to actually see what they’re negotiating,” says Melinda St. Louis, international campaigns director with Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, a watchdog group.

On top of that, unlike TTP and TTIP negotiators, TISA negotiators have avoided hosting any public “stakeholder engagement” events—open forums during negotiations for interested parties to comment on the deal. “They’re not even trying,” says St. Louis.

“They’re not even putting window dressing on this.”

There’s a clear reason, critics say.

“The secrecy,” says Bertossa of PSI, “is, in many ways, an attempt to avoid public scrutiny that would inevitably be against some of these provisions.”

That may well be true. In the case of the TPP, along with public awareness has come opposition. As grassroots groups have hit the streets, rallied online and barraged legislators with petitions, a bipartisan voting bloc in Congress has managed—at least, for now—to put the brakes on the Obama administration’s attempt to “fast track” the bill.

There’s arguably even more at stake in TISA than in the TPP or TTIP.

TISA was born from the ashes of the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s “Doha Development Round,” multilateral trade negotiations that have essentially stalled, despite much fanfare over their 2001 launch. During these talks, the United States, EU and their allies have repeatedly failed to earn strong liberalization commitments in the service sector from the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and other developing countries. Eventually, a frustrated pack of countries calling themselves the “Really Good Friends of Services”—dominated by the United States and EU— decided to launch their own talks in 2012, outside the WTO framework.

In the highly diplomatic realm of international trade negotiations, this gesture was tantamount to flipping off the Global South.

“The United States and EU decided to basically create a coalition of the willing,” explains St. Louis, “saying, ‘If we can’t get our extreme services deregulation agenda through the WTO framework because of this opposition we’re coming up against … then we’re going to go on our own. Who’s with us?’ ”

TISA’s long game, some worry, is to nudge the full WTO into adopting whatever ultra-corporate agreement emerges.

In the United States, TISA’s biggest cheerleader is the Coalition of Service Industries (CSI), a lobbying titan that includes the likes of AT&T, Citigroup, Deloitte, Ebay, Google, Microsoft and Walt Disney. CSI, in turn, has helped prop up “Team TISA,” a broader business alliance whose six co-chairs represent a comically nefarious cross-section of corporate America: Citigroup, IBM, Liberty Mutual, MetLife, UPS and Walmart.

Team TISA provides no contact information on its website. CSI did not respond to In These Times’ request for comment.

It’s hard to guess what will appear in the final deal, thanks to the extreme secrecy. But public interest and labor groups have been able to glean some details. One major concern is the inclusion of so-called “standstill” and “ratchet” obligations: clauses that aim to lock in existing levels of service-sector liberalization among participating nations. In practical terms, these provisions discourage steps to enhance public-sector—and thus, democratic— participation in the economy. For example, if Panama were to commit its water services to TISA, and a Panamanian city then took control of a water service provider owned by a U.S. company, the United States could challenge Panama before an international tribunal for violating TISA. Unlike TPP or TTIP, TISA reportedly will not provide access to international tribunals where corporations themselves can directly sue governments (known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) courts). But that’s not as comforting as it might sound—companies that are peeved by a foreign state making profit-threatening moves in their sector simply have to pressure their own governments to take action on their behalf.

An individual foreign service provider that feels that it’s inappropriately had a contract canceled or been locked out of a bid, even without ISDS, could go to its own government and seek redress and have that government pursue dialogue and consultations and eventually state-to-state dispute settlement,” says Celeste Drake, a trade and globalization policy specialist at the AFL-CIO. “That opportunity in itself could have the effect of keeping more services in the private sector.”

As the ultra-secret talks roll on in Geneva, activists are slowly starting to raise awareness. Public Services International has done much of the work. But PSI and allies face a not-so-subtle resource problem: NGOs, watchdogs and trade policy experts from organized labor are already stretched thin monitoring the TPP and the TTIP.

The alarm, really, has yet to be sounded.

“I don’t think that this opposition has reached the average person on the street,” says Yorgos Altintzis, policy officer at the International Trade Union Confederation. “The vast majority of our society has no idea.”

Link to the original from In These Times.

Read 2410 times Last modified on Tuesday, 12 August 2014 16:29

ERA Legislation in your State

Unratified states Gold - Ratified States Purple

Latest News from the Warren Campaign

  • Will new senators push Democrats to the left?
    Will new senators push Democrats to the left?

    When Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren and the rest of the 2013 class of liberal senators start work this month, they'll have to do more than figure out the byzantine ways of getting things done in Washington.

    They'll also have to decide how seriously to engage a progressive movement that sees their assent a historic opportunity to shift the Democratic Party to the left.

    Written on Saturday, 05 January 2013 19:11 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren Wins Senate Banking Committee Seat: Sources
    Elizabeth Warren Wins Senate Banking Committee Seat: Sources

    WASHINGTON -- Nearly two years after Wall Street waged a successful campaign to keep consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren from running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the incoming senator will be tapped to serve on the Banking Committee, according to four sources familiar with the situation. 

    Written on Tuesday, 04 December 2012 19:22 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren Redefines "Balanced Approach"
    Elizabeth Warren Redefines "Balanced Approach"

    Politico recently declared, "The Senate is about to become a liberal lion’s den." 

    In 2012, groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, MoveOn.org, CREDO Action, and Democracy for America worked hard to build progressive power in Congress. This week's iconic photo of Senators-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) walking together down the corridors of power is symbolic of the rising progressive tide. 

    Written on Sunday, 18 November 2012 14:20 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren Wins the "Which Side Are You On?" Debate
    Elizabeth Warren Wins the "Which Side Are You On?" Debate

    An overbearing and at times ridiculously aggressive Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown came across as a desperate man Thursday night, as he attempted to gain the upper hand in the first debateof this year's most closely-watched U.S. Senate race and, by extension, in a reelection contest that seems to be slipping away from him.

    Written on Sunday, 23 September 2012 16:27 Read more...
  • Mayor Menino to endorse Elizabeth Warren in Senate race at Roslindale Square rally on Friday
    Mayor Menino to endorse Elizabeth Warren in Senate race at Roslindale Square rally on Friday

    Mayor Thomas M. Menino is expected to endorse Democrat Elizabeth Warren on Friday in her bid to unseat Republican US Senator Scott Brown, according to two people with knowledge of the plan.

    Written on Thursday, 20 September 2012 19:47 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren's DNC Speech: "Corporations Are Not People"
    Elizabeth Warren's DNC Speech: "Corporations Are Not People"

    Bill Clinton may have stolen the show at the DNC last night with his 45-minute, half-ad-libbed barn-burner of a speech, but there were a few other noteworthy speakers as well. After dragging for an hour or two, the night's program picked up when Massachusetts Senate candidate, CFPB creator, and economic realtalker extraordinaire Elizabeth Warren took the stage.

    Written on Thursday, 06 September 2012 18:54 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren: Yes She Can?
    Elizabeth Warren: Yes She Can?

    It was a grim, sleety day in Chicopee, a gritty postindustrial town in western Massachusetts, where paint flakes off worn-out bridges and boarded-up factories. At a community relations luncheon, kind security guards were opening back doors and holding out umbrellas for the few willing to brave the freezing slush.

    Written on Wednesday, 16 May 2012 04:54 Read more...
  • Jonathan Klate: A candidate's connection
    Jonathan Klate: A candidate's connection

    Retired Amherst gentleman John Kick is not known as a political activist. In the Springfield union hall where he ventured last October to hear Democratic senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren, he might have seemed a world-weary citizen with vague curiosity about the professor turned politician.

    But John's sorrowful demeanor and disconsolate eyes betrayed a woefully wounded heart. His son, Gabe, took his own life just a month earlier, at the age of 28. John keeps moving, somehow, in the dreadful private agony understood only by parents who persist in such an aftermath.

    Written on Monday, 26 March 2012 17:09 Read more...
  • The Ascendance of Elizabeth Warren
    The Ascendance of Elizabeth Warren

    If you’re reading this, you probably already know how you feel about Elizabeth Warren. Warren is currently running for Senate in Massachusetts, in the hopes of knocking out Republican incumbent Scott Brown. Very few first-time candidates are so well-known, or so passionately beloved.

    Written on Monday, 26 March 2012 00:00 Read more...
  • NOW PAC Endorses Elizabeth Warren
    NOW PAC Endorses Elizabeth Warren

    NOW/PAC is thrilled to announce its endorsement of Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren for the U. S. Senate from the state of Massachusetts. Warren is the most prominent of the three Democrats vying to run against incumbent Sen. Scott Brown (R) in the general election. Recent polls show Warren neck and neck with Brown.

    Written on Monday, 05 March 2012 19:48 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren Says Washington Must Act Now To Help Stem The Tide Of Foreclosure
    Elizabeth Warren Says Washington Must Act Now To Help Stem The Tide Of Foreclosure

    Backs MA Congressmen, Attorney General Coakley Calling on Federal Housing Finance Agency to Take Action To Prevent Unnecessary Foreclosures

    BOSTON – It is past time for the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to step up and help prevent unnecessary foreclosures in Massachusetts, said Consumer Advocate Elizabeth Warren, reinforcing calls from members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation and Attorney General Martha Coakley.

    Written on Wednesday, 22 February 2012 07:54 Read more...
  • U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern this week endorsed Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren for the United States Senate.

    U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern this week endorsed Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren for the United States Senate.

    Written on Friday, 27 January 2012 20:35 Read more...
  • The Woman Who Knew Too Much
    The Woman Who Knew Too Much

    Millions of Americans hoped President Obama would nominate Elizabeth Warren to head the consumer financial watchdog agency she had created. Instead, she was pushed aside. As Warren kicks off her run for Scott Brown’s Senate seat in Massachusetts, Suzanna Andrews charts the Harvard professor’s emergence as a champion of the beleaguered middle class, and her fight against a powerful alliance of bankers, lobbyists, and politicians.

    Written on Wednesday, 16 November 2011 00:00 Read more...
  • Elizabeth Warren's Appeal
    Elizabeth Warren's Appeal

    For a few years now, politicians straining against all of the antigovernment demagogy have been searching for a way to energize public interest and remind voters of the essential government services and protections they rely on and all too often take for granted.

    Written on Sunday, 16 October 2011 00:00 Read more...
  • Berkshire Democrats Want Elizabeth to Run, Run, Run
    Berkshire Democrats Want Elizabeth to Run, Run, Run

    PITTSFIELD, Mass. —  More than a few local Democrats would be ecstatic if Elizabeth Warren decides to run against Scott Brown for the U.S. Senate. Warren is kicking around the idea of running and stopped in Pittsfield on Friday to meet with party members to gauge their support as part of a listening tour across the state.

    Written on Friday, 19 August 2011 00:00 Read more...

Sign the ERA Petition

ERADemandButton

On Friday, September 12th more than 150 activists will go to DC and Demand that their Senators and Representatives support removing the ratification deadline from the ERA (SJ Res 15 and HJ Res 113)

Button-SignERAPetition

Sign the Petition - Sen. Sanders Run as a Democrat in 2016

Button-SandersPetition

Like Elizabeth Warren

Lori Wallach on the TPP from PDA Progressive Roundtable

Progressive Roundtable with Reps. Ellison and Pocan and Lori Wallach on TPP

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of