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TUC position on the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA)

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The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is a free trade agreement covering services. These include services delivering public goods, such as education, water, health care. TiSA was launched in 2013 to set ‘plurilateral’ rules on trade in services that apply to a number of countries, with a view to making them global rules.

The TUC adopted a position of opposition to TiSA, as well as (CETA) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) at Congress 2014, due in part to threats to public services, regulation, labour standards, environment and sovereignty.

TiSA is being negotiated between the EU and 22 other countries: Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Korea,  New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey and the United States.

The TUC has wide-ranging concerns about the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA),  most fundamentally because its objective is not promoting trade but rather increasing corporate access and influence in the global economy, and promoting liberalisation and deregulation at the cost of rights and protections for workers, consumers and the environment. Furthermore, the measures contained within it effectively prevent the right of member states to legislate, regulate and administer as they see fit whether that be at national, provincial or local level.

Labour standards

The TUC is concerned that TiSA contains Mode 4 provisions that would allow workers to be brought in by foreign companies without any requirement for core ILO labour standards or national employment rights to be respected.[1] If these workers lose their employment, they must immediately leave the host country. Furthermore, no labour market test would be allowed to be conducted by a country to assess if such workers were needed by the economy. Employers are likely to use such provisions to bring in workers to undercut local workers and evade a responsibility to invest in training workers in the resident labour market. The EU mandate on TiSA[2] from the EU contains no commitment to uphold core labour rights such as those found in sustainable development chapters in trade agreements like the EU-Korea agreement.

Public services

The TUC is concerned that TiSA takes a ‘hybrid’ list approach to listing services where market access is provided to sectors on a ‘positive list’ basis, with only listed services opened up, but ‘national treatment’ rules (whereby foreign investors must not be treated less favourably than domestic investors) are applied on a ‘negative list’ basis– which means all sectors would be covered unless they are explicitly exempted. It would be extremely difficult to exempt all the sectors involved in the provision of public services through the negative list approach as public services encompass so many sectors, e.g. construction, finance, catering. 

Loss of sovereignty

TiSA will give commercial interests disproportionate access to, and influence over, government decisions that affect their interests. Its rules over so-called ‘transparency’, combined with those to ‘cut red tape’ and ‘harmonise’ domestic regulation would allow foreign investors to challenge public policy and regulations regarded as bad for business.  This would have a ‘chilling effect’ on government plans to pursue such policies or adopt regulations such as those concerning worker or environmental protection in the future, as they would fear being challenged by another TiSA country and face sanctions. These requirements should be removed.  There is a further threat that foreign investors themselves would be able to launch such a challenge against another TiSA country if the agreement contains ‘Most Favoured Nation’ provisions that can be applied to investor protection.  These might allow Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions in other trade deals TiSA countries have signed to apply to the TiSA agreement.

Impact on developing countries

TiSA should not disadvantage developing countries that may be bound by its rules if they are multilateralised through the WTO, both in terms of locking in poor labour standards and threatening their food security by liberalising market access for agricultural products.


The TUC believes a more open approach so that stakeholders and the public can hold negotiators to account for negotiations conducted in their name.  

The ETUC  position on TiSA can be found here:​ 

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