The EU and 22 countries, representing 70% of world trade in services, are currently negotiating the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). It can’t enter into force with the approval of the Parliament. MEPs are closely following negotiations and have demanded more transparency. The international trade committee votes on a report with recommendations on 18 January. We asked report author Viviane Reding, a Luxembourg member of the EPP group, what will determine Parliament's approval of any deal.
TiSA is an agreement being negotiated by 23 WTO members, including the EU, who want to further liberalise the trade in services between each other. By making it easier to export and import services, the EU - which is the world biggest exporter of service - expects to create a larger market for European companies and a wider choice for European consumers. The negotiations started in March 2013 and by the end of 2015 there were already 15 rounds of talks. The European Commission is leading negotiations on behalf of the EU.
How do you assess TiSA negotiations so far? Do you agree that they are more transparent than previous trade agreements negotiations?
TiSA negotiations are a real breakthrough. We asked for more transparency; we got it. MEPs receive all the negotiating documents. Citizens can now find the EU´s negotiation mandate, the EU's schedule of commitments and other documents online and we will continue to ask for even more transparency.
We also said very clearly that the Parliament is not going to wait until the final text is ready. We want to be involved during the whole procedure in order to shape the course of the negotiations. In 2014 we created a monitoring group to monitor every phase of the negotiations and constantly analyse all the negotiation documents. We have all the political parties sitting together before and after each negotiating round to discuss with the EU's chief negotiator. We are also intensively engaging outside the EU institutions, in particular with civil society. This monitoring group works extremely well.
Now, it is our responsibility as members of the European Parliament to make clear what we want to have in TiSA and what we don't want to have in it. If our recommendations are not in the final agreement, then the Parliament will veto it.
What recommendations is the Parliament making in order to achieve a balanced agreement?
We certainly do not want TiSA to undermine our public services, culture, labour laws, environmental standards, consumer protection, data protection - in other words the way we live in Europe. All this is a must. Our political, social and cultural model is an asset, not a burden. Our standards cannot be changed by any trade agreement. Otherwise the Parliament will say no in the end. We have to be crystal clear. The right to regulate has to be preserved. Nothing must prevent the European, national and local authorities from maintaining, improving and applying their laws. That is of outmost importance.
That being said, as the world leader in the services trade, the EU should not punch below its weight either. TiSA is an opportunity to shape globalisation, ensure more reciprocity in terms of access to foreign markets and provide more rights to consumers, both when they travel abroad and when they shop online.
TTIP negotiations have raised and are raising strong concerns among many. How can this be avoided with TiSA?
Through very broad parliamentary agreement. Everybody sits around the table and has his or her say. In the end we reached a consensus on what we really want. This consensus makes us strong and because we are strong, we can impose on the European Commission the way these negotiations are to be led. Citizens must and will understand that the directly elected members of the European Parliament are working to preserve their rights, not only today, but also tomorrow. They can be sure that it is in good hands. It is a lot of work but it’s worth it and I think that is what citizens are expecting from us.
Since the 2014 European elections, things are changing in the EU's trade policy. More change will come as a result of this report.
Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, EU, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Switzerland, Taiwan,Turkey, USA