Tuesday, 24 June 2014

What the Abbott Government has been keeping secret from Australian voters

Quotes from an IT News article dated 20 June 2014:

* Negotiations started under Labor in 2013 and are continuing under the Coalition, with trade minister Andrew Robb strongly supportive of TISA.
Robb told The Age that the proposed deal opens up new opportunities for Australia and that he wants to achieve a level playing field for the country's busineses so that they can compete on the same terms as overseas entities.
The leaked text of the Financial Services Annex shows the deal would remove much of the current right the Australian government has to block foreign takeovers of Australian banks.
Foreign banks would also be allowed to set up shop in Australia without setting up local subsidiaries, and be allowed to import workers and IT and communications equipment on a temporary basis.
The Kelsey analysis notes that TISA goes beyond provisions in the controversial Trans Pacific Trade Agreement which has currently stalled after opposition from Japan on market access.
TISA could be close to being concluded. Yesterday, US Trade Representative Michael Froman said a basic outline of the deal is in place ahead of negotiations next week.

* Law professor Jane Kelsey of Auckland University analysed the leaked Financial Services Annex on Wikileaks, and said service industry lobbyists, mostly US based firms that dominate IT and communications technology, are campaigning to stop governments from being able to demand that data be stored and processed locally.
In article X.11, the EU and Panama proposed that a TISA party should not be able to prevent data transfers by financial institutions to overseas. This, Kelsey said, means signatories would not be able to adopt privacy and confidentiality measures that breach TISA provisions.
The US wants a more direct, full ban on countries' abilities to prevent transfer of financial data to services suppliers' usual places of business.
Holding data overseas means it's almost impossible for states to control how it is used, or to impose legal liability on financial services providers, Kelsey said. It also opens up the possibility of abuse by governments.

Today, WikiLeaks released the secret draft text for the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) Financial Services Annex, which covers 50 countries and 68.2%1 of world trade in services. The US and the EU are the main proponents of the agreement, and the authors of most joint changes, which also covers cross-border data flow. In a significant anti-transparency manoeuvre by the parties, the draft has been classified to keep it secret not just during the negotiations but for five years after the TISA enters into force.
Despite the failures in financial regulation evident during the 2007-2008 Global Financial Crisis and calls for improvement of relevant regulatory structures2, proponents of TISA aim to further deregulate global financial services markets. 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. 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.
TISA negotiations are currently taking place outside of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework. However, the Agreement is being crafted to be compatible with GATS so that a critical mass of participants will be able to pressure remaining WTO members to sign on in the future. Conspicuously absent from the 50 countries covered by the negotiations are the BRICS countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China. The exclusive nature of TISA will weaken their position in future services negotiations.
The draft text comes from the April 2014 negotiation round - the sixth round since the first held in April 2013. The next round of negotiations will take place on 23-27 June in Geneva, Switzerland.
Current WTO parties negotiating TISA are: Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, the United States, and the European Union, which includes its 28 member states Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
China and Uruguay have expressed interest in joining the negotiations but so far are not included.
[1] Swiss National Center for Competence in Research: A Plurilateral Agenda for Services?: Assessing the Case for a Trade in Services Agreement, Working Paper No. 2013/29, May 2013, p. 10.
[2] For example, in June 2012 Ecuador tabled a discussion on re-thinking regulation and GATS rules; in September 2009 the Commission of Experts on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System, convened by the President of the United Nations and chaired by Joseph Stiglitz, released its final report, stating that "All trade agreements need to be reviewed to ensure that they are consistent with the need for an inclusive and comprehensive international regulatory framework which is conducive to crisis prevention and management, counter-cyclical and prudential safeguards, development, and inclusive finance."

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