Monday, October 5, 2015

Uruguay Opposes TiSA and Effort by U.S., European Union to Control the Flow of Digital Information

The strong domestic dispute that, during the first six months of Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez’s term, muddied the waters of the Frente Amplio (FA) ended in early September. On Sept. 7, the president and his ministers adopted as their own the recommendations from an FA congress and closed the controversial negotiations on Uruguay’s eventual participation in the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), an accord promoted by some of the biggest US and European service-industry corporations.   NotiSur, October 2, 2015

By Jake Sandler
On the surface, the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) appears to be a tool to renovate and enhance the services sector of existing international trade agreements, particularly the more ephemeral and immaterial aspects of global services commerce such as the trade and migration of digital information and Internet services across national borders. Therefore, we might think of TiSA as a transnational data-flow agreement.

TiSA’s overall promotional framework is that the agreement would stimulate the growth of the services sector (by far the most robust and important sector of the US, EU and many other highly developed nations’ economies) by opening up channels of access and better regulating for fair practices.

However, this agreement--predominantly designed and pushed by the US and the EU, along with Taiwan, Israel, Chile and New Zealand--has come under harsh criticism for its suspicious focus on regulation mechanisms to control of information flow. This is a subject that whistleblower Edward Snowden has made so potent a topic for many people throughout leftist communities in the Western hemisphere.

Uruguay’s recent decision under President Tambaré Vázquez of the leftist Frente Amplio coalition to drop out of the deal is highly representative of the general criticism of the agreement. The decision of  the Vázquez administration is certainly not motivated by economic interest, as Uruguay would likely benefit from new opportunities to invest overseas and new markets for exporting their own services. Uruguay views TiSA as a threat to information privacy and freedom of information. The South American country also fears that this deal would give the US and the EU a disproportionately strong amount of control over international data flow.

With Uruguay decision to drop out, six other Latin American countries remain part of TiSA: Chile, Mexico, Peru, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Panama.

Controversy, WikiLeaks
In June of 2014, WikiLeaks released a document from the TiSA negotiations called the "Financial Services Annex," This document reveals that the talks were shrouded in secrecy, a clear departure from the World Trade Organization’s traditional template. The break-away group of  WTO nations  conducting the TiSA talks, led by the US and the EU, is often referred to as the Real Good Friends of Services Club.

Furthermore the WikiLeaks report investigation found that:
  • TiSA is designed for and in close consultation with the global finance industry, whose greed and recklessness has been blamed for successive crises and which continues to dominate rulemaking in global institutions.
  • A sample of provisions from this leaked text show that governments signing on to TiSA will: be expected to lock in and extend their current levels of financial deregulation and liberalisation; lose the right to require data to be held onshore; face pressure to authorise potentially toxic insurance products; and risk a legal challenge if they adopt measures to prevent or respond to another crisis.

Ban on Access to Source Codes 
TiSA also contains stipulations that require an open access for source codes of all member nations. For example, the Mayor of Munich has already taken the step of making a mandatory switch of all public systems to open source systems like LibreOffice or OpenOffice.While this can be considered a part of the framework of creating openness and transparency, the second edge of the blade is that it also knocks down national and subnational barriers of protection against the reach of other nations into their own public information flow.

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