Secret trade agreement covering 68 percent of world services published by WikiLeaks

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The text of a 19-page, inter­na­tion­al trade agree­ment being draft­ed in secret was pub­lished by Wik­iLeaks on Thurs­day as the trans­paren­cy group’s edi­tor com­mem­o­rat­ed his two-year anniver­sary con­fined to the Ecuado­ri­an Embassy in London.

Fifty coun­tries around the globe have already signed on to the Trade in Ser­vice Agree­ment, or TISA, includ­ing the Unit­ed States, Aus­tralia and the Euro­pean Union. Despite vast inter­na­tion­al ties, how­ev­er, details about the deal have been nego­ti­at­ed behind closed-doors and large­ly ignored by the press.

In a state­ment pub­lished by the group along­side the leaked draft this week, Wik­iLeaks said “pro­po­nents of TISA aim to fur­ther dereg­u­late glob­al finan­cial ser­vices mar­kets,” and have par­tic­i­pat­ed in “a sig­nif­i­cant anti-trans­paren­cy manoeu­vre” by work­ing secret­ly on a deal that cov­ers more than 68 per­cent of world trade in ser­vices, accord­ing to the Swiss Nation­al Cen­ter for Com­pe­tence in Research.

Tout­ing the deal ear­li­er this year, the Unit­ed States Cham­ber of Com­merce said a suc­cess­ful TISA agree­ment would ben­e­fit America’s ser­vices indus­try and its 96 mil­lion, or 84 per­cent, of the nation’s pri­vate sec­tor work­ers. “As its chief goals, the TISA should expand access to for­eign mar­kets for US ser­vice indus­tries and ensure they receive nation­al and most-favored nation treat­ment,” the cham­ber said of the deal in Feb­ru­ary. “It should also lift for­eign gov­ern­ments’ sec­toral lim­its on invest­ment in ser­vices,” “elim­i­nate reg­u­la­to­ry incon­sis­ten­cies that at times loom as trade bar­ri­ers” and “pro­hib­it restric­tions on legit­i­mate cross-border infor­ma­tion flows and bar local infra­struc­ture man­dates relat­ing to data storage.”

Wik­iLeaks warns that this large­ly impor­tant trade deal has been hard­ly dis­cussed in pub­lic, how­ev­er, notwith­stand­ing evi­dence show­ing that the pol­i­cy mak­ers involved want to estab­lish rules that would per­tain to ser­vices used by bil­lions worldwide.

The draft Finan­cial Ser­vices Annex sets rules which would assist the expan­sion of finan­cial mul­ti-nation­als – main­ly head­quar­tered in New York, Lon­don, Paris and Frank­furt – into oth­er nations by pre­vent­ing reg­u­la­to­ry bar­ri­ers,” Wik­iLeaks said in a state­ment. “The leaked draft also shows that the US is par­tic­u­lar­ly keen on boost­ing cross-bor­der data flow, which would allow unin­hib­it­ed exchange of per­son­al and finan­cial data.”

Addi­tion­al­ly, the cur­rent draft also includes lan­guage infer­ring that, upon the fin­ish­ing of nego­ti­a­tions, the doc­u­ment will be kept clas­si­fied for five full years.

In Aus­tralia, jour­nal­ists at The Age report­ed that experts say the pro­posed changes includ­ed with­in the Wik­iLeaks doc­u­ment “could under­mine Aus­trali­a’s capac­i­ty to inde­pen­dent­ly respond to and weath­er any future glob­al finan­cial crisis.”

Dr. Patri­cia Ranald, a research asso­ciate at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Syd­ney and con­ven­er of the Aus­tralian Fair Trade and Invest­ment Net­work, told the paper that the doc­u­ments sug­gest the US wants to “tie the hands” of oth­er gov­ern­ments, includ­ing allied ones, by way of sheer deregulation.

Amend­ments from the US are seek­ing to end pub­licly pro­vid­ed ser­vices like pub­lic pen­sion funds, which are referred to as ‘monop­o­lies’ and to lim­it pub­lic reg­u­la­tion of all finan­cial ser­vices,” she said. ”They want to freeze finan­cial reg­u­la­tion at exist­ing lev­els, which would mean that gov­ern­ments could not respond to new devel­op­ments like anoth­er glob­al finan­cial crisis.”

Ear­li­er this week, US Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Michael Fro­man said the TISA deal was already well on its way to being put together.

The basic frame­work of the agree­ment is in place, ini­tial mar­ket access offers have been exchanged, and sec­tor-spe­cif­ic work in areas like telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and­fi­nan­cialser­vices is in full swing,” Fro­man said, accord­ing to Reuters.

The doc­u­ment pub­lished this week by Wik­iLeaks is dat­ed April 14 — two months before Fro­man last weighed in on the progress of the nego­ti­a­tions and six months after his office hailed pre­vi­ous re-write to the pro­pos­al. Along with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Cana­da, Israel, Mex­i­co, New Zealand, Turkey and dozens oth­ers, Amer­i­can pol­i­cy mak­ers will met in Gene­va, Switzer­land lat­er this month start­ing June 23 to begin the next round of negotiations.

Wik­iLeaks founder Julian Assange, mean­while, remains con­fined to Ecuador’s embassy in Lon­don where two years ago this Thurs­day he arrived seek­ing asy­lum. Assange, 42, is want­ed for ques­tion­ing in Swe­den but fears his arrival there would prompt a swift extra­di­tion to the US due to his role in expos­ing Amer­i­can state secrets.