Highly secretive talks began in 2012 to establish a new trade agreement, the trade in Services agreement (TISA). The group of countries negotiating TISA have given themselves an insider joke for a name, the 'Really Good Friends of Services', to signal how truly committed they are to promoting the interests of services corporations.
The idea for TISA originated with trade think tanks and lobbyists for transnational corporations unhappy with the pace of services negotiations at the World Trade Organization. The coalition of Services Industries has been clear about how ambitious TISA negotiators should be in achieving privatization and deregulation.
The objective of this paper is to help overcome the secrecy and complexity surrounding the TISA negotiations in order to bring the agreement into the public sphere for democratic debate. Eliminating government’s role in the delivery of services, getting rid of regulations, and allowing transnational corporations free rein sounds like the platform of a libertarian political party, a radical agenda that should be debated in public and that voters should have a say over at the ballot box. Instead, the Really Good Friends of Services have imposed unprecedented levels of secrecy on their negotiations, suppressing the public’s ability to discuss the serious issues at stake. The positions TISA governments take at the bargaining table – how much they push privatization and deregulation, whether they make concessions in sensitive areas like health, education, culture, water supply, and banking regulation - will not be made public until five years after the agreement comes into force. The report mainly gleans information from negotiators’ speeches, trade journals and leaked documents to indicate the threat TISA poses to public interest regulation.