Updates on TTIP and possible implications on essential services

Last week DG Trade organised another meeting of the Civil Society Dialogue to give an update on the fifth negotiation round on TTIP that took place between the Commission's negotiators and the US representatives in Virginia from 19 to 23 May.  Marco Düerkop, lead negotiator on services, reported that the US tabled their first proposal on market access for services, concerning in particular transport, telecom, distribution services, financial services, and professional mobility.

He added that the Commission hopes to send its offer on services soon, based on the Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) model. From the audience a representative of a Belgian trade union asked if the US has shown interest in opening markets of some public services, such as education etc. Marco Düerkop responded that the Commission is fully aware of the preoccupations of stakeholders and reminded that the Treaty gives a special status to Services of General Interest, including those which have an economic character.

The Commission is also guided by its past experience in trade agreements where they have always safeguarded public services. In every trade agreement there are reservations for services which are considered sensitive: for example, public education, public health, provision of water. So far they haven't discussed with the US what will be the scope of public services in TTIP. The US wants reservations for these services too, but they are very keen on including private education in the scope.

The agreement with South Korea has a reservation for social services which could be treated similarly for public services.

Many questions from the public arose concerning the Investor State Dispute Settlement, the so-called ISDS: it is a legal mechanism allowing an investor from another country to bring a claim against a state in which it has made an investment, because relying on the national courts of the host country to enforce obligations in an investment agreement is not always easy or may even be impossible.

Currently a stakeholder consultation on ISDS in TTIP is open until July 6. However, the Commission clarified that they do not intend to question the application of ISDS in this agreement; rather they want to hear stakeholders' views on how the system could be shaped and improved. Also the results of the consultation will not have any consequence on the conclusion of the agreement between the EU and Canada (CETA agreement) that are likely to be finished before the results of the consultation are available.

On June 17, Social Platform has organised a debate jointly with SOLIDAR, the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) and the European Federation of Public Services Unions (EPSU) on the possible implications of TTIP on social and health services, and other essential services. We want to share with the Commission our preoccupations if these services are included in TTIP and we also want to suggest in which direction the reservations should go.