Even as we are still resisting the last one, pushed by the European Commission through the Troika (together with the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund), we are facing another huge risk from new trade agreements that the EU is negotiating at a multilateral scale. The most important and worrying are the nearly finished Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada; the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP, also known as TAFTA) with the United States; and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), negotiated among 50 countries.
Where Do These Treaties Stand?
The first round of negotiations between the United States and the EU took place in July 2013. The TTIP is not a traditional trade agreement aimed at reducing tariffs on imports. Both sides recognise that the main target is to remove “regulatory barriers”, which would include an attack on social and environmental standards and regulation. Another primary objective is to create new markets by opening up public services and public procurement contracts to competition from transnational corporations.
The negotiations for a trade agreement between the EU and Canada were launched in 2009, and they concluded in August 2014. The text includes chapters on regulatory co-operation, food and consumer product standards, technical barriers to trade, public procurement, trade in services and investment protection. The agreement still has to go through the approval process by both parties.
TISA is being negotiated by a self-selected group of 23 governments representing 50 countries, including the United States and the EU. These countries represent more than two thirds of global trade in services. Talks began in 2012, outside of the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework. The negotiations aim to allow foreign corporations the same access to domestic markets at “no less favourable” conditions than domestic companies. At the same time, the agreement could block local governments’ attempts to regulate, purchase and provide services.
What Are the Risks for Public Water?
Trade and investment protection agreements normally do not deal directly with how public administration is organised. But rules for international trade in services can have an impact on organisational autonomy in the area of water supply and sanitation. In this regard, the new wave of trade agreements tries to go further than previous negotiations. Trade agreements are so broad and complex that it is difficult to analyse every possible impact on public water management. Professor Markus Krajewski, from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, explains the risks from the TTIP in a legal opinion for the German Association of Local Utilities. Most of these risks can be applied to the other ongoing free trade negotiations.
Read more on the website of Food & Water Europe