TiSA - Strengthening rules-based trade in services

Marietje
The European Union is the world leader when it comes to the export of services. Trade in services is very broad, covering everything from lawyers and consultants, to shipping and air services or webshops and streaming services. The EU itself is already very open; foreign companies are treated equally on our market. But in the rest of the world, this is often a problem and foreign (European) companies are discriminated against. They might have to invest a certain amount of money before they are allowed onto the market, certificates are not recognised, service providers are only allowed to stay in a country for a very short time or they have to open a local office before they can do business. In some countries, entire sectors are closed to foreign companies, such as shipping and air services in the US. Today, the International Trade Committee of the European Parliament will vote on a report on the Trade in Services Agreement, an agreement that is being negotiated between 23 countries to formulate new rules of the road with regard to the trade in services.[1] Together, those countries account for around seventy percent of global trade in services. The European Commission negotiates on behalf of the European Member States and at the end of this process, the European parliament will have a decisive vote on whether the treaty should enter into force. In the meantime, the Parliament is closely involved in bringing the negotiations to a successful finish. The report that will be voted later today is an interim report by the Parliament of the developments so far, and allows it to formulate a wishlist of what it wants to see in the final agreement. Because the Commission has to bring the final document back to Parliament, this report allows Parliament to actively steer the negotiating process. TiSA is an opportunity to create a level playing field for European companies, so that they can enjoy fair and equal treatment abroad. This is crucial because it is expected that services will continue to become a more important part of the European economy and export. Technological advances and digitisation have speeded up this process. Everyone with internet access could in principle offer services in a third country. In order to reap the benefits of the possibilities this offers, we need to make sure that there are clear and fair rules. TiSA will contribute to that. In today's report, the Parliament calls on the Commission to aim for an ambitious agreement, especially in sectors such as e-commerce, telecommunication, financial services, procurement and transport. At the same time, there are also things that Parliament does not want. Free trade is good, but only if existing legislation and standards are not lowered and if free trade follows rules. Parliament for example makes clear that negotiations about digital trade must not touch data protection rules and privacy, these are topics we do not address through trade negotiations. Audio-visual services and public services have been excluded entirely. TiSA cannot force national governments to break open monopolies on the provision of for example water or electricity. It is also crucial that the rules on short term working permits are clear. These are meant for highly educated service providers who need access to a third country for a short period of time and a specific task. This is first and foremost an offensive EU interest. There are many European architects, lawyers, accountants and consultants who would like access to third countries to provide their high quality services. The TiSA negotiations are nowhere near finished. And even when the current negotiators reach an accord, there will be more work to do. The aim of this agreement is to be a stepping stone towards a new global treaty on the trade in services, under the auspices of the World trade Organisation. Parliament's position in this regard is clear as well. TiSA must be open to all potential new members and nothing must be decided which would block the so-called 'multilateralisation' of the deal. TiSA is an important step to strengthen the global rules-based trading system, so it is good that parliament will adopt a positive, yet critical, position. The vote in INTA will take place at 19:00 this evening. Tomorrow there will be a press conference with the Parliamentarians who have been working on the text these past weeks. It can be watched at 13:30 here. The text that is to be adopted this evening will be voted by the entire parliament in the first week of February. More information on TiSA can be found here, on the European Commission's website. [1] Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Costa Rica, the EU, Hong Kong China, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States. Of these, the EU has no free trade agreements on services with Chinese Taipei, Israel, Pakistan or Turkey