Unions lift lid on secret public service trade talks

A new report by global trade union federation Public Services International (PSI) has exposed highly secretive trade negotiations that could see further deregulation of international financial services and new threats to Irish public services.

PSI says the proposed Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), being drawn up by 23 negotiating government bodies including the EU, would promote privatisation of public services like health, water and transport, and make it illegal for governments to take services back into public control if private operators failed.

The proposed deal involves 50 countries, including Ireland, and almost 70% of the world’s trade in services.

The Really Good Friends of Transnational Corporations Agreement, written by Ellen Gould, looks at how TiSA could introduce sweeping and permanent restrictions on public service delivery. But it says the negotiation process remains shrouded in secrecy.

PSI has demanded transparency and accountability from the international powers involved.

Gould says the negotiators call themselves the ‘really good friends of services.’ But their proposals include eliminating governments’ role in public service delivery, sweeping deregulation, and greater freedoms for transnational corporations in delivering public services. PSI says these issues should be debated in public and that any outcome should be decided by voters at the ballot box.

In her introduction to the report, PSI general secretary Rosa Pavanelli said regulations to protect workers, consumers, small business and the environment exist because the market doesn’t provide them. “We know that large corporate interests are heavily involved in the TiSA negotiations. With such high stakes for people and our planet, the secrecy surrounding the TiSA negotiations is a scandal,” she said.

Ms Pavanelli called for the TiSA negotiating texts to be released for public scrutiny and decision-making and said the process must not restrict any government’s ability to regulate in the public interest.

PSI’s summary is available here, and the full report is available to download here.