Fair Traders who are celebrating the defeat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) may see their hard work undone if the talks towards the proposed Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) continue under Trump.
Many Democrats who minimized the importance of the negative impacts of corporate trade deals on working class Americans have now paid the price in the recent elections. As my colleagues at the Center for Economic and Policy Research have pointed out, racists and xenophobes were always going to vote for Trump but the key voters the Democrats were counting on that they lost were largely working class voters, many of them union members, in states hit hard by trade deals (supported by both parties) that put working class people in competition with lower-income manufacturing workers in other countries whilepreserving protections for intellectual property-holders and high income professions.
While these working class voters may have voted against their economic interests in terms of workers’ rights, social security, work/life balance, and other pro-worker provisions in the Democratic platform, they were right that both parties have become too aligned with corporate interests — and trade agreements is one of several instances where that is the case.
It is yet to be seen how or if President-elect Trump will make good on his pledges on trade to these voters, but in the initial preview of his first days in office, he has promised to withdraw from the TPP. Likewise the talks with the EU on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are on hold. In the EU, the EU-Canada agreement, known as CETA, is in limbo while the European Court of Justice decides whether the dispute settlement mechanism in the agreement complies with EU law.
Fair trade advocates are rightly celebrating important victories and noting that, thanks to successful grassroots campaigning, President Obama did not ever have the votes to send the TPP to Congress for approval, and won’t be able to do so in the lame duck session as he had originally intended.
Unfortunately there is still a corporate trade agreement under negotiation that has so far received scant attention: the proposed Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). Trump has not commented about the TiSA, so we really don’t know his views. But there are three reasons why we’re not “out of the woods” with the TiSA, and why the TiSA isn’t in the same category as the TPP and TTIP for now, despite media reports that the deal is on hold until US negotiators get new instructions:
1. Trump is not against corporate-driven trade agreements; he has said that he thinks US negotiators did a bad job negotiating and that they’ve gotten bad deals, and that he’s going to renegotiate and get good deals. So he could very well take up the TiSA as an agreement that’s still under negotiation, put his stamp on it, and then claim that “this is what happens when you negotiate a good agreement!” And you can bet that the corporations are doing their best to talk with him now about doing this, because they are not going to abandon the project when he has yet to state his position.
2. The TiSA is about locking in further deregulation and privatization, and Trump loves deregulation and privatization.
3. The TiSA is focused on services, so it may not speak to the working class in his base in the same way that agreements that result in the transfer of manufacturing jobs to low-wage, worker-unfriendly countries like Vietnam do.
Thus, there is an urgent need in the United States to not only ensure that Trump does not take up a re-packaged TPP or TTIP (and possibly negotiate an even worse deal for ordinary citizens), but also to use the short window of time before he announces his opinion on the deal to ensure that the TiSA is permanently sidelined as well.
However, it’s important not to think of TiSA as “only about services.” Now that nearly every chapter of the agreement has been leaked, a more complete picture has emerged: that the TiSA is fundamentally an offshoring and outsourcing charter.* The TiSA is intended to lock in a system of rules to allow multinational companies to operate in a borderless digitized environment with minimal regulation and maximum rights regarding the treatment of labor, capital, inputs, and the new key element of data. As promoted by the multinational financial, logistics, and big data corporations through Team TiSA, the agreement would set severe limits on the ways that governments can regulate domestic economies, removing key tools of economic management and the ability to shape the service economy while providing an extensive corporate bill of rights for multinational companies’ operations across the globe. Given the shift in employment patterns from high-paying manufacturing jobs to low-wage services jobs, and given the potential offshorability of millions more services jobs, the danger posed by TiSA is daunting.
Read on for ten ways that the TiSA could fundamentally affect jobs and the labor market, based on provisions in the leaked texts, some of which have been accepted by all parties and some of which are under negotiation.