Social Platform’s voice at the TTIP stakeholders presentation event

Last week, on the occasion of the eighth round of negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US, we participated in the stakeholders’ presentation event organised by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade.

Valentina Caimi, Policy and Advocacy Adviser, presented the main concerns from Social Platform about the negotiations. Indeed, we are concerned about the possible impact of this agreement on Services of General Interest, in particular on social, health and education services.

So far the orientation of the negotiators has been to exclude from the scope of the agreement public services that are publicly funded. We call for the exclusion of public services even when they are privately funded. Even if we advocate for sufficient public funding to be available to finance these services, the reality is that in many member states, because of the crisis and austerity measures, or because of cultural traditions that privilege private for profit provision, private sources are used to complement public funding. We think that the source of funding should not be the criterion on which to decide if these services should be covered by trade agreements or not; instead, negotiators should focus on the mission of these services. By focusing on the source of financing, there would be a clash with the essential role and wide discretion of national, regional and local authorities to define the services they consider as being delivered in the general interest, enshrined in Protocol 26 of the Lisbon Treaty. The wide discretion of public authorities entails that they can provide, commission and organise these services as close as possible to the needs of users, and they can define whether these services are open to competition and decide whether they are publicly or privately funded.

We also asked for more legal certainty; there is discrepancy in the concepts used in trade agreements and in the Lisbon Treaty and EU legislation. Trade agreements use the concepts of public services and public utilities, while in the EU system we talk about Services of General Interest, which can be economic or non-economic. How are these concepts related to one another?

We called on the negotiators to make sure that that services in the EU are delivered in line with the values enshrined in Protocol 26: a high level of quality, safety and affordability, equal treatment, the promotion of universal access and of users’ rights.

We also asked for the exclusions, exemptions and tailored rules that exist in EU legislation to recognise the specific characteristics of social, health and education services and other services provided directly to the person, and for them to be integrated in the same way in trade agreements. Therefore, the services directive, the public procurement directive and state aid rules should not be reopened. On the contrary, they should be the starting point of the negotiations in trade agreements.

Read more in our weekly editorial, ‘The services you need should not be TTIPed over’