02 January 2016


In my last update, I introduced the secretive Trade In Services Agreement (TISA), currently being negotiated in parallel with both TTIP and sibling the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.  With rather nice timing, WikiLeaks has just released one of the key chapters from TISA, concerning financial services.  Since the text itself is pretty dry, WikiLeaks has asked one of the world's top experts on these trade agreements, Professor Jane Kelsey of the Faculty of Law, University of Auckland, New Zealand, to provide a detailed guide to what it all means.  I strongly recommend reading her analysis, since it really explains what all those innocuous-sounding phrases really mean.  Here is her summary of what the new leak tells us:

The secrecy of negotiating documents exceeds even the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and runs counter to moves in the WTO towards greater openness.

The TISA is being promoted by the same governments that installed the failed model of financial (de)regulation in the WTO and which has been blamed for helping to fuel the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).

The same states shut down moves by other WTO Members to critically debate these rules following the GFC with a view to reform.

They want to expand and deepen the existing regime through TISA, bypassing the stalled Doha round at the WTO and creating a new template for future free trade agreements and ultimately for the WTO.

TISA is designed for and in close consultation with the global finance industry, whose greed and recklessness has been blamed for successive crises and who continue to capture rulemaking in global institutions.

A sample of provisions from this leaked text show that governments signing on to TISA will: be expected to lock in and extend their current levels of financial deregulation and liberalisation; lose the right to require data to be held onshore; face pressure to authorise potentially toxic insurance products; and risk a legal challenge if they adopt measures to prevent or respond to another crisis.

Although financial services are not currently part of TTIP, largely because the US government is unwilling to water down its standards, expect something very similar to the leaked TISA chapter to turn up in TTIP once the haggling begins.

Although not exactly a leak, because obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act, the publication of a letter from the US Chief Negotiator Dan Mullaney to EU Chief Negotiator Ignacio Garcia-Bercero is rather ironic, since it contains details of the efforts that the US will be making to keep TTIP as secret as possible.  It's in reply to a letter from the EU to the US outlining the measures in place there - although unfortunately we don't have this. 

The letter is easily summarised: the only people who will be granted access to TTIP documents are US government officials and "persons outside the US government who participate in its internal consultation process and who have a need to review or be advised of the information in these documents" - industry lobbyists, in other words.  No surprise there, given the US government's refusal to allow any relaxation of secrecy by the European Commission.  But the following section is something we didn't know before:

The United States will hold the TTIP documents in confidence for five years after entry into force of the TTIP Agreement, or if no agreement enters into force, for five years after the last round of negotiations.

So not only is the US doing everything in its power to stop the public seeing the negotiating documents while TTIP is being discussed, but it aims to keep them under lock and key for another five years after TTIP is agreed - or fails.  That really shows an extraordinary contempt for the US people who are not even allowed to see what their officials are doing for many years after its too late to do anything about it anyway.

Finally, a quick note about what the pro-TTIP camp have been up to recently.  Things aren't going to well for them, of course: resistance throughout Europe is growing by the day, as more people - and media - wake up to the deep problems of TTIP, not least ISDS.  Because of this pushback, momentum has been lost, and the negotiations aren't moving forward as fast as had been expected at the beginning.  In an attempt to get things going again, the Business Europe organisation has put together a Q&A page on TTIP.  Sadly, it contains the same old misleading claims, like this one:

For the EU, independent studies point out to an additional GDP growth of 0.5%, translating into EUR 120 billions annually. This compares to a GDP growth of 0.1% in the EU-28 and of 0.4% in the Eurozone in 2013.

Except, of course, as readers of this blog will know, that is comparing two completely different kinds of growth: the predicted cumulative extra GDP growth after *ten years* of TTIP (0.5%), with the *annual* growth in the EU-28 (0.1%).  A more honest way of putting that would be that the most optimistic forecast from the European Commission's research is that at best TTIP would add on average just 0.05% extra GDP growth per year.  The fact that Business Europe has to resort to this kind of obfuscation shows how weak the case for TTIP really is.

More interesting is a recent speech from Anthony L. Gardner, the US Ambassador to the European Union.  Here's the problem he's noticed:

Despite the benefits that would flow from a deal, the media coverage – especially in social media in certain EU member states – has started to turn negative.

Well, maybe the real problem is that there are *no* overall economic benefits, as the European Commission's own econometric models definitively prove.  But choosing to ignore that rather important fact, here's what Gardner says needs to be done:

I think our strategy has to change: I intend to take the debate to the critics, rather than accept speaking engagements only from the usual business federations where we preach to the converted. I intend to meet with representatives of civil society that have an open mind – including from labor, environmental and consumer groups; and I intend to focus in particular on rallying small and medium sized businesses because they struggle to spend the resources to deal with the bureaucratic red tape that we hope to reduce.

And here's how he intends to do that:

I believe this public diplomacy has to be centered on stories, not statistics: simple language that ordinary people can understand.

That's a wonderful admission that the facts about TTIP simply don't stand up to scrutiny, as I've shown in multiple previous updates.  Instead, what Gardner will offer is "stories", and "simple language that ordinary people can understand".  Isn't that consideration for the public's sadly-limited ability to understand complicated things like numbers just touching?  Thank you Mr Ambassador, you're a gent....

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