What is Tisa?


The Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) poses a huge threat to public services. It brings the same discredited, toxic approach that we have seen in TTIP and CETA, and applies it specifically to services.

Services are ‘things you cannot drop on your foot’ like haircuts, healthcare or banking. It is arguable whether TISA should really be called a trade deal at all – none of it is about tariffs on trade across borders, and all of it is about de-regulation. It takes existing the trade rules, which put the corporate bottom line before people’s needs, and tries to extend them into more areas of life.

TISA treats public services like health, education and sanitation as commodities for trade. Its aim is to increasingly open up services to the market – to privatise them. Unless public services are explicitly excluded by governments, then they are at risk. There is a real danger that millions of people worldwide will lose access to vital services which play a crucial role in tackling poverty and inequality.

Where did TISA come from?

TISA started after pressure from a group of big businesses, called the Global Services Coalition, including Walmart, Google and Visa. The businesses were frustrated at the slow pace of talks on services at the WTO, where there was much opposition, and they encouraged a smaller group of countries to start separate negotiations. These began in 2012. It is not surprising therefore that TISA responds to a corporate agenda.

It involves 50 countries*, including the UK and the rest of the EU. It also includes several countries in the global south. However Paraguay and Uruguay, who were originally involved, have withdrawn from the negotiations as they fear being tied in to the deal will prevent them from regulating in the public interest.

TISA is also likely to impact many other countries, because it is being specifically designed so that it can later be slotted back into the WTO – piece by piece if necessary. So a small group of countries will produce an extreme deal and then try to force it on all the rest.

Six reasons to oppose TISA

  • It could lock in privatisation of public services. TISA contains mechanisms, such as ‘ratchet’and ‘standstill’ clauses, that make it much harder to reverse privatisations and will allow greater market access for foreign companies.
  • It will be terrible for the climate. TISA entrenches the idea of technological neutrality on energy policy. This could stop countries favouring renewables over coal, oil and gas.
  • It will mean more casino capitalism. TISA will undermine efforts to regulate the financial sector and avoid another crisis.
  • It threatens online privacy. TISA promises to hand much more power to the likes of Google and Microsoft to move personal data across borders to countries with lax data protection laws.
  • It will be especially damaging to countries in the global south. TISA includes countries like Pakistan that could be hindered in developing public services. It also poses a threat to countries outside TISA, because, once approved, rich countries will seek to impose TISA-style measures globally through the WTO.
  • It would worsen the situation of migrant workers. TISA would limit the ability of governments to protect the rights of temporary migrants.

Next steps

Negotiations on TiSA are currently on hold, partly because the US position on TiSA is not clear and partly because the EU has internal differences over data storage and protection. 

Global Justice Now is working with allies around the world to build the movement against TiSA.

Read our briefing to find out more


*Countries currently involved in TiSA negotiations:

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. That’s 50 countries in all if you count member states of the EU individually.


Photo: Annette Dubois/Flickr/cc