bilaterals.org logo
bilaterals.org logo

Services

The international trade in services is big business, comprising between half and three quarters of all economic activity in richer and poorer countries. This is a lucrative market which the world’s transnational corporations want to control. They want services to be treated purely as commodities to be bought and sold in a competitive market.

Services have been described as anything that you cannot drop on your foot, including banks, education, energy, healthcare, water, rubbish collection, libraries, railways, airlines, tourism, TV and radio.

Under the WTO’s GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services), and the services provisions in bilateral and regional free trade agreements, governments agree to open the economy to foreign suppliers of certain services. In those services, foreign suppliers must be given at least as favourable treatment as it gives to local suppliers. Governments cannot set limits on the numbers of service suppliers operating in its market or impose requirements for local content.

Free trade in services threatens to restrict a government’s ability to ensure access to affordable, adequate basic services for all its citizens by removing any restrictions and internal government regulations in the area of service delivery considered to be "barriers to trade". These include measures which pursue environmental, social or community objectives.

Services liberalization provisions of bilateral FTAs often go further than governments’ GATS commitments. For example, while Australia excluded water ‘services’ from its GATS offer, this is included under its FTA with the USA, opening up Australia’s water resources and utilities to US-based TNCs.

last update: May 2012


How TiSA strolls off with our services
While TTIP is currently the center of attention, our world leaders discuss TiSA, an extensive service agreement meant to put (public) services, like the water supply, in the hands of the international market.
TTIP, CETA, TISA and public services
What is the threat from free trade agreements to public services?
CUPE delegates in Colombia to oppose secret trade deal
Four national public sector unions have joined forces with sister unions in Colombia to fight against the privatization of public services and to strengthen each other’s struggles to defend human and labour rights.
Cut NHS from trade deal say doctors
Doctors attending the British Medical Association’s (BMA) annual representative meeting in Liverpool have voted overwhelmingly to urge the Government to remove health and social care services from a controversial trade agreement between the EU and US
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and UK healthcare
It is only now, in the context of EU-US negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), that the health implications of free trade agreements have become a front line political concern in the UK.
Make no mistake, the TTIP is a move in the wrong direction
While it would be wrong to say that the TTIP will lead to the wholesale privatisation of public services, it would potentially constrain governments’ ability to reverse past policy decisions to open up public services to competition as this would become a treaty-based commitment.
New free trade agreements threaten financial reforms
While financial reforms are ongoing in the EU and many other countries, little attention is paid to free trade agreements that continue to liberalise financial services as well as restrict regulatory freedom (‘policy space’) and controls on capital movements.
Minister targeting top Swiss banks’ ’new business units’
Bahamas’ Minister of Financial Services is this week aiming to encourage three of the largest Swiss private banks to domicile “new business units” in the Bahamas, under the auspices of a new deal under the EU EPA.
Trade in Services in US FTA with Jordan
The US-JO FTA includes a provision for trade in services in article 3
Services: to liberalize or not?
The Southern Africa Development Community and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa are currently in the process of liberalizing trade in services.

    Links


  • Coalition of Service Industries
    CSI is the leading US business organization dedicated to the reduction of barriers to US services exports, and to the development of constructive domestic US policies, including tax policies, that enhance the global competitiveness of its members. Website covers bilateral FTAs.