TiSA must protect EU firms abroad and public services at home, say MEPs
The ongoing talks on a Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), among countries representing 70% of world trade in services, should deliver a deal that eases EU firms' access to international markets but does not force EU, national and local authorities to open up public services to competition, or otherwise restrict their right to regulate in public interest, say MEPs in recommendations approved on Wednesday.
"Today's vote is a breakthrough. I am proud to have gathered wide support across the political spectrum to change the orientation of EU trade policy, in the interest of EU companies and consumers alike", said rapporteur Viviane Reding (EPP,LU), after Parliament backed her resolution by 532 votes to 131, with 36 abstentions.
"After two years monitoring of TiSA talks and listening to citizens’ concerns, the European Parliament is now sitting down at the negotiating table. Yesterday, the European Commission had a blank cheque. Today, it is bound by a very clear parliamentary mandate. If our recommendations are respected, then TiSA will afford more rights to our citizens at home and remove some obstacles to our companies abroad. If not, the Parliament will not hesitate to veto this agreement", she added.
To protect the EU firms from unfair competition abroad, MEPs ask the EU negotiators for:
* reciprocity in market opening, as services in the EU are already more open to foreign competition than those of its partners. In particular, opening should be sought in international public procurement, telecoms, transport, financial and digital services,
*curbs on third countries’ restrictive practices against EU firms, such as forced data localisation or foreign equity caps, and
* less red tape for SMEs, which lack the financial and human resources needed to navigate international trade rules.
MEPs also set out "no-go" areas to be excluded from the negotiations:
* EU public services, such as education, health, social services, social security systems, and audiovisual services,
* EU citizens’ data protection must be up to current ng and future standards,
* the EU should agree to accept only highly-skilled foreign workers, on contracts and for a strictly limited period of time,
* the right of EU, national and local legislators to regulate in the public interest must be strongly protected, as should be their right to change their minds, if they wish to re-nationalize services which have previously been open to private competition, and
* the deal should include a revision clause that makes it possible for a party to leave the TiSA or reverse commitments on liberalisation of a service if labour and social standards are infringed.
More rights for EU consumers abroad
MEPs want safeguards and more information for EU consumers travelling and using services abroad, e.g. on roaming fees, commission payments on credit cards and safeguards against spam and geoblocking.
Take China on board
MEPs support China's request to join the negotiations and seek to ensure future "multilateralisation" of the agreement.
The EU Commission should provide fact sheets for the public, explaining each part of the agreement, and also publish factual round-by-round feedback reports on the Europa website.
Negotiations for a Trade in Services Agreement, under way since April 2013, aim to establish global minimum requirements for trade in sectors such as financial, digital and transport services. Participants now include 23 WTO members, who together account for 70% of global trade in services
For more information on specific MEPs demands, check the background note (EN/FR)