Education International
Education International

Teachers’ unions: carve education out of TiSA

published 1 June 2016 updated 13 June 2016

With the Trade in Services negotiations accelerating, teachers’ unions are urging their governments to demand a democratic negotiation process and the carving out of education and other public services from the agreement.

In a process that has been marked by secret negotiations and document leaks, the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) Ministerial Meeting is going to be held on 1 June in Paris during the OECD Annual Ministerial Gathering while the 18th round of negotiations is taking place the same week.

Education International (EI) has called on its affiliates to lobby their governments and make public statements that education is a human right and a public good. Affiliates should remind policy makers that they are responsible for enforcing and upholding these principles. The main aim of this action is to demand an explicit carve-out of education and other public services from the TiSA. Several of EI's affiliates in TiSA countries have already responded to this call and more are expected to join.

Hidden threats

In its call to member organisations, EI reminds that the TiSA, despite being less well known than the similar Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), has equally grave potential consequences for the public education sector. With TiSA participants collectively representing 70 percent of the world's US $44 trillion services marketplace, the agreement actually covers a broader range of countries and, from what is known about the agreement, offers a higher level of liberalisation in the education sector.

“The so-called reservation on public education included by the EU in its latest services offer is not apt to fully protect the public education sector,” commented Fred van Leeuwen, EI General Secretary. “The TiSA agreement is designed to go well beyond the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) with new rules and disciplines that will apply to all services sectors including education. However, negotiators still seem to neglect the importance of providing appropriate safeguards to the education sector. Also, unlike other trade and investment agreements, the parties refuse to even include any chapter on labour rights and the ILO Core Conventions.”

Legally binding

The agreement’s aim is to further liberalise trade in services and provide legally binding rules that grant investors and companies free access to the markets of the TiSA parties. In both documents published by some TiSA parties and various leaked documents related to TiSA negotiations, several countries intend to extend the agreement to private education services. Education International has warned that including education services in any trade agreements raises significant concerns, since trade rules are legally binding and can have the effect of locking in and intensifying pressures of commercialisation and privatisation. The inclusion of private education would grant private education companies broad new rights and restrict the ability of governments to regulate private providers.