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U.S., EU Trade Chiefs Seek to Dispel Fears about TTIP and Public Services

Posted March 24, 2015

In a belated effort to allay serious concerns expressed by opponents of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) about the deal’s potential to dramatically erode regulatory sovereignty and thereby open the door to widespread privatization of health care and other public services, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström have issued a joint statement this week to clearly articulate the negotiating stance of the two parties regarding this matter with respect to both TTIP and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). 

The statement by the two trade chiefs confirms “that U.S. and EU trade agreements do not prevent governments, at any level, from providing or supporting services in areas such as water, education, health, and social services.” By the same token, it states that “no EU or U.S. trade agreement requires governments to privatize any service, or prevents governments from expanding the range of services they supply to the public.”

Aiming to diffuse one of the most frequently cited fears by anti-TTIP campaigners – namely that the trade pact’s investor protection provisions would effectively prevent any state repatriation of public services once they are outsourced to the private suppliers – the statement makes clear that  “these agreements do not prevent governments from providing public services previously supplied by private service suppliers; contracting a public service to private providers does not mean that it becomes irreversibly part of the commercial sector.”

Finally, the statement confirmed that “EU and US trade agreements do not impede governments’ ability to adopt or maintain regulations to ensure the high quality of services and to protect important public interest objectives, such as the protection of health, safety, or the environment.”