The European Parliament on Wednesday (3 February) adopted a number of recommendations – their red lines and blue lines – for the ongoing negotiations over the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).
Launched in 2013 by 23 WTO members (with the EU counting as one), and representing 70% of the international trade in services, the TiSA negotiations are seeking to reinforce international rules and open markets in the area of digital, financial and transport services, among others.
“The message is crystal clear. If the negotiators respect all our recommendations (blue lines and red lines), they will be engines for growth in Europe, sources of competitiveness for our firms and safety nets for European citizens,” declared Viviane Reding, the lead MEP, after the vote, held today during the plenary session.
The resolution was backed by 532 votes to 131, with 36 abstentions.
“I am proud to have gathered a large majority across the political spectrum with a view to drawing clear guidelines for the remaining negotiations,” Reding added. “TiSA is an opportunity for Europe to prosper within our borders and to be strong outside the EU.”
In a recent interview with EURACTIV, Reding insisted that TiSA was not about opening EU markets, as much as making others’ less closed.
Current rules governing trade in services are “grossly outdated, as there was virtually no internet trade when the last deal was agreed back in 1995”, said MEP Jude Kirton-Darling, Socialists & Democrats co-ordinator for the report.
As the status quo in not an option, a reform is the only way forward, said the British MEP, stressing the need to maintain workers’ rights to public services.
“TiSA can help close loopholes that are currently used to abuse workers and consumers, but the Commission needs to get it right and make this clear in the upcoming negotiations. With today’s vote, we’re giving a new mandate to the Commission. If it fails to respect it, then the European Parliament will have to consider rejecting the final outcome, ” Kirton-Darling added.
The sector greeted the report. “The report gives a strong political support to the Commission negotiators, which will help the EU in getting a strong deal with its TiSA partners,” said European Services Forum Chairman Sir Thomas Harris. “The industry will continue to closely monitor the negotiations and hopes for an ambitious conclusion by end 2016,” he noted.
The vote builds upon the Parliament’s adoption last July of a resolution calling on the Commission to fully exclude current and future public services from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the United States, regardless of how they are provided or funded. The resolution on TiSA goes further by requesting the European Commission to introduce a “gold standard” clause to exclude public services from the scope of trade agreements irrespective of how they are supplied.
The “gold standard” clause would considerably strengthen the protection of quality, accessible and affordable public services in EU trade agreements. The European Commission should now commit to changing its approach to public services not only in TiSA, but also in TTIP and future trade agreements, urged a number of NGOs and trade unions.