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


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  • 17-Mar-2016 The Jakarta Post Whose healthy ASEAN Community?
    The liberalization of health care under the ASEAN Economic Community is clearly biased toward curative services as being more profitable than health promotion.
  • 10-Mar-2016 Rabble Thousands march against water privatization in Peru as TPP and ICSID ruling looms
    More than 2,000 people marched in Lima, Peru in opposition to the government’s plan to privatize public water services.
  • 4-Sep-2015 El Destape Web TiSA and the new development bank: two antagonistic proposals
    The central banks of BRICS bloc bet on the New Development Bank, while the central countries put their money on TiSA: free trade in services.
  • 4-Sep-2015 Diario Información Free trade treaties and the health system
    While mass media are almost entirely absorbed with cases of corruption, trade and investment agreements slip by, almost unnoticed. TTIP, CETA and TiSA are being negotiated throughout the world, in complete opacity and in the absence of democratic checks.
  • 26-Aug-2015 TNI 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.
  • 5-Aug-2015 War on Want TTIP, CETA, TISA and public services
    What is the threat from free trade agreements to public services?
  • 30-Jul-2015 El Destape Web TiSA vs. Nuevo Banco de Desarrollo: dos propuestas antagónicas
    Los bancos centrales del bloque BRICS apuestan al Nuevo Banco del Desarrollo, mientras que los países centrales al libre comercio de servicios, llamado TiSA.
  • 22-Jul-2015 Piensa Chile Cómo EE.UU. pretende librarse de sus obligaciones con la OMC mediante el tratado TISA
    Cada vez es más evidente que las negociaciones sobre el acuerdo internacional sobre el comercio de servicios (TISA, por sus siglas en inglés) son un intento de presionar a los países en vías de desarrollo para permitir una mayor liberalización de los sectores de interés de EE.UU.
  • 14-Jul-2015 Canadian Union of Public Employees 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.
  • 24-Jun-2015 Herald Scotland 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
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  • 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.
  • ESF
    The European Services Forum (ESF) is a network of representatives from the European services sector. We are committed to actively promoting the interests of the European services sector and the liberalisation of services markets throughout the world in connection with the GATS negotiations.