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June 24th, 2014 (InsideCostaRica.com) Costa Rica is party to negotiations surrounding a secret trade deal which critics say is aimed at ensuring financial deregulation for major international banks and financial services firms that was leaked by the whistleblower web site WikiLeaks on Thursday.
The Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) covers 50 countries and 68.2% of world trade in services. The US and the EU are the main proponents of the agreement, and the authors of most joint changes, which also covers cross-border data flow. In a significant anti-transparency maneuver by the parties, the draft has been classified to keep it secret not just during the negotiations but for five years after the TISA enters into force.
“Despite the failures in financial regulation evident during the 2007-2008 Global Financial Crisis and calls for improvement of relevant regulatory structures, proponents of TISA aim to further deregulate global financial services markets. The draft Financial Services Annex sets rules which would assist the expansion of financial multi-nationals – mainly headquartered in New York, London, Paris and Frankfurt – into other nations by preventing regulatory barriers. The leaked draft also shows that the US is particularly keen on boosting cross-border data flow, which would allow uninhibited exchange of personal and financial data,” WikiLeaks said in a press release.
“TISA negotiations are currently taking place outside of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework. However, the Agreement is being crafted to be compatible with GATS so that a critical mass of participants will be able to pressure remaining WTO members to sign on in the future. Conspicuously absent from the 50 countries covered by the negotiations are the BRICS countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China. The exclusive nature of TISA will weaken their position in future services negotiations.”
The draft text comes from the April 2014 negotiation round – the sixth round since the first held in April 2013. The next round of negotiations are taking place between June 23rd and June 27th in Geneva, Switzerland.
“A sample of provisions from this leaked text show that governments signing on to TISA will: be expected to lock in and extend their current levels of financial deregulation and liberalisation; lose the right to require data to be held onshore; face pressure to authorise potentially toxic insurance products; and risk a legal challenge if they adopt measures to prevent or respond to another crisis,” Professor Jane Kelsey of the Faculty of Law at the University of Auckland told WikiLeaks.
Critics and watchdog groups have decried the secret agreement, alleging TISA would violate countries’ sovereignty and is designed solely to ensure the dominance of major multinational banks and finance firms in New York and London.
“It is impossible to obey a law or know how it affects you when the law is secret. And that is what this agreement would be, a new rulebook for trade in services — principally banking, insurance and trusts,” David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer winning author and law professor, says in a column for Al Jazeera America.
“[TISA] is intended to subvert the creation, by governments, of rules that benefit all of society and instead make sure the rules enhance the power of the financial services industry and reduce its accountability,” Johnston continues.
“Not one of the five big American newspapers — The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and USA Today — wrote a word about the document. Ditto the major TV networks. […]
Big Business and national governments wanted to conceal the terms of the proposed Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) while keeping consumers, unions, environmentalists and the vast majority of businesses in the dark. Thanks to WikiLeaks, they failed,” Johnston said.
Current WTO parties negotiating TISA are: Australia, Canada, Chile, Taiwan, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, the United States, and the European Union, which includes its 28 member states Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.