Labour MEPs voted yesterday for the exemption of public services, protection of workers' rights and greater transparency and data protection in the EU Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).
The European Parliament voted on a resolution setting out a series of demands from MEPs to the European Commission, which is negotiating TiSA on behalf of EU national governments. These included the full exclusion of all public services; strong safeguards for workers; a new binding clause to guarantee data privacy; and greater transparency.
TiSA is currently being negotiated between 23 WTO parties, including the EU. It is intended as a tool to reform the rules surrounding global trade in services, which have been in force since 1995 through the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
Jude Kirton-Darling MEP, Labour's European Parliament spokesperson on TiSA, said:
"Trade in services is vital for the UK and the current rules are grossly outdated, as there was virtually no internet trade back in 1995. So the status quo is not an option: we absolutely need reform, but not at the cost of workers' rights, and not at the expense of our public services, especially the NHS.
"We also need more transparency in trade agreements, from TTIP to CETA to TiSA - Labour MEPs believe secrecy is not an option, be it secret deals, secret texts or secret courts.
"TiSA can help close loopholes that are currently used to abuse workers and consumers, but the Commission needs to get it right. With today's vote, we're giving a new mandate to the Commission. If it fails to respect it, the European Parliament will not accept the outcome of the negotiations."
David Martin MEP, Socialists and Democrats Group spokesperson on international trade, added:
"The trade in services is a significant and growing part of the EU economy. Creating a level playing field and opening global markets to European service providers is long overdue and crucial to the protection and promotion of jobs in the European Union.
"In no EU country are jobs so linked to the services sector as in the UK - more than half the UK workforce are employed in this field. The Trade in Services Agreement is an opportunity not only to boost our economy but to update trade rules for the benefit of all.
"Preventing social dumping and ensuring strict data protection is vital as e-commerce grows, and we will continue to work for this."