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Tricks of Trade: WikiLeaks Uncovers Another Brutal, Secret, International Corporate Power Grab

European online activists deftly implement cuddly animals to make a point.

Secret negotiations are being held in the banking haven of Geneva between 50 countries, including the United States, concerning the Trade In Services Agreement (TISA).  The result of a series of seven talks held since 2012, the TISA end game would be to set international terms for close to 70 percent of global trade in “services,” a term which spans industries as disimilar and diverse as banking and construction.  

A chapter of the trade agreement, obtained and released by WikiLeaks, shows that despite the catastrophe that was the 2008 economic meltdown, TISA members wish to make the financial industry immune to domestic regulation.  

As for the rest of the agreement? We may not know until it is looking us directly in the face.  Melinda St. Louis, International Campaigns Director for Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, told In These Times. “You only have to wonder what’s in there, if they’re so afraid of citizens and civil society and workers to actually see what they’re negotiating.”

In These Times writer Cole Stangler provides background on TISA and its origins:

TISA was born from the ashes of the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s “Doha Development Round,” multilateral trade negotiations that have essentially stalled, despite much fanfare over their 2001 launch. During these talks, the United States, EU and their allies have repeatedly failed to earn strong liberalization commitments in the service sector from the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and other developing countries. Eventually, a frustrated pack of countries calling themselves the “Really Good Friends of Services”—dominated by the United States and EU— decided to launch their own talks in 2012, outside the WTO framework.

In the highly diplomatic realm of international trade negotiations, this gesture was tantamount to flipping off the Global South.

In America, TISA is being spearheaded by the Coalition of Service Industries (CSI), a corporate lobby led by AT&T, Citigroup, Deloitte, Ebay, Google, Microsoft and Walt Disney.  CSI has helped form “Team TISA,” whose six co-chairs include representatives of Citigroup, IBM, Liberty Mutual, MetLife, UPS and Walmart.

The secrecy surrounding TISA is being described as worse than the bastion of non-transparency that is the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). These “free trade agreements,” together with Europe’s Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), seek to create a previously unimaginable era of corporate superhumanism that could lead to a century of unregulated corporate control over financial systems.  There is warranted fear that TISA would be the most dangerous piece in this axis of evil as it wholly rejects the sovereignty of nations.  Thanks to being kept in the dark, In These Times can only speculate:

One major concern is the inclusion of so-called “standstill” and “ratchet” obligations: clauses that aim to lock in existing levels of service-sector liberalization among participating nations. In practical terms, these provisions discourage steps to enhance public-sector—and thus, democratic— participation in the economy. For example, if Panama were to commit its water services to TISA, and a Panamanian city then took control of a water service provider owned by a U.S. company, the United States could challenge Panama before an international tribunal for violating TISA. Unlike TPP or TTIP, TISA reportedly will not provide access to international tribunals where corporations themselves can directly sue governments (known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) courts). But that’s not as comforting as it might sound—companies that are peeved by a foreign state making profit-threatening moves in their sector simply have to pressure their own governments to take action on their behalf.

A series of “free” trade agreements orchestrated in extreme secrecy by global financial firms who desire to end regulations. With faith in these institutions already at rock bottom, what do they really have to lose?

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