Factsheet: Trading away our Services? How trade rules impact public and essential services

Everyone should have access to high quality, affordable and reliable public and essential services. Yet, trade agreements can impact on the way that our essential services are managed and can threaten the provision of quality public services like healthcare and education. 

AFTINET's factsheet Trading away our Services? How trade rules impact public and essential services explains how trade rules affect services, which services are impacted and how trade agreements can undermine the provision of quality public services. It calls for a trade system that supports governments to provide high quality, affordable and reliable public and essential services. To achieve this trade agreements must:

  1. Be transparent and democratic: Negotiating texts should be published during trade negotiations, the final text of the agreement should be released for independent assessment of the social, economic and human rights impacts before signing, and the full agreement should be put to a vote in Parliament.
  2. Exclude public services: Trade agreements must include a comprehensive exception for public services and a broad definition of public services must be adopted to ensure all public services are excluded irrespective of whether these services are managed by public or private providers.
  3. Include a positive list for services: Where trade in services rules are included in a trade agreement, there should be a positive list for services, which specifies which services are covered. Services that are developed in the future should not be covered by trade agreements.
  4. Preserve the right to regulate: Governments must not be restricted from regulating services in the public interest, including in response to privatisation failures.
  5. Exclude investor-state dispute settlement provisions: ISDS provisions must be excluded from trade and investment agreements and corporations must not be empowered to sue governments if they introduce new regulation of services in the public interest.