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-Jul-2015 The Wire How the US is using a secret agreement on services to wriggle out of its WTO obligations
    It is increasingly evident that the TiSA negotiations are an attempt to pressure developing countries to grant greater liberalisation in sectors of interest to the US and other industrialised countries, without the latter having to pay any price for it, writes Chakravarthi Raghavan
  • 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.
  • 3-Jul-2015 WikiLeaks WikiLeaks publishes four more TiSA documents
    On 2 July, WikiLeaks publshed four more chapters from the secret ongoing TiSA (Trade in Services Agremeent) negotiations, ahead of the next negotiating round on Monday: Electronic Commerce, Telecommunications Services, Financial Services and Maritime Transport Services.
  • 2-Jul-2015 Scoop WikiLeaks releases Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) Core Text
    WikiLeaks has released a modern journalistic holy grail, the secret Core Text for the largest ’trade deal’ in history, the Trade In Services Agreement, one week before the next TiSA negotiating round
  • 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
  • 3-Jun-2015 WikiLeaks WikiLeaks releases 17 documents from Trade in Services Agreement
    WikiLeaks releases today 17 secret documents from the ongoing TISA (Trade In Services Agreement) negotiations which cover the United States, the European Union and 23 other countries including Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, Taiwan & Israel — which together comprise two-thirds of global GDP.
  • 28-May-2015 Live Mint Why India is not joining trade in services agreement
    Even though India has been insisting on negotiating services agreements in all ongoing bilateral trade agreements, including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, to tap its rapidly growing young skilled workforce, it has so far desisted from joining a plurilateral trade in services agreement (Tisa) being negotiated among 24 countries.
  • 23-Mar-2015 ContreLaCour Accord sur le commerce des services (TISA) : décryptage du mandat de négociation
    Le 10 mars dernier, les gouvernements européens ont donné leur accord à la publication du mandat de négociation du TiSA. Malheureusement, ce mandat reste peu fourni et très inaccessible pour les non-initiés au droit du commerce international.
  • 13-Feb-2015 EurActiv TiSA must include a gold-standard clause to protect public services
    European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions pushes for a compromise: a clause which would clearly exclude as widely as possible public services from the scope of TiSA.
  • 31-Dec-2014 Counter Punch Trade In Services Agreement: Goodbye privacy, hello censorship
    Internet privacy and net neutrality would become things of the past if the secret Trade In Services Agreement comes to fruition.
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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.