TiSA (= Trade in Services Agreement) is currently being drafted as a plurilateral agreement on trade in services. Above all else, it is to improve access to foreign services markets, to provide for higher, uniform standards, and to create fresh momentum for the Doha negotiations, which are largely stalled. The EU and the German Government hold the view that the new rules designed to facilitate the trade in services should, at a later stage, be embraced at multilateral level. At technical level, the agreement is modelled upon the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) (in german).

At the basic level, the scope of TiSA is modelled upon the structure of GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services). This is equivalent to the scope of the 2011 negotiating mandate for the Doha (in german) negotiations. It covers more than 160 sectors and industries, some of which will, however, not be subject to requirements under TiSA.

As TiSA is not about encouraging the privatisation of public services, Germany has not and will not agree to any requirements under which it would be forced to open its market for public services. Just as is the case with all negotiations on EU-FTAs, public services have been exempted from the scope of application of TiSA. There are also no plans to use TiSA to limit the government’s right to regulate, i.e. with regard to the licensing of healthcare institutions, power stations, or waste disposal facilities, or the accreditation of schools and universities.

The European Commission and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy are well aware of the sensitive nature of the cultural industries. The EU has put in place wide exemptions for areas that are particularly sensitive to the EU and its Member States. Whilst audiovisual and cultural services cannot be excluded from the scope of application of TiSA, given that this would require a consensus to be reached on this by all 23 negotiating partners, Germany will not be subject to any requirements that would go beyond what has been agreed under international law in the General Agreement of Trade in Services (GATS) and been in force since 1994.

There will be no provisions on investment protection under TiSA. Consequently, there will be no investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. The conflict resolution mechanism that is to be used under TiSA will be modelled upon WTO procedure. This means that a dispute settlement mechanism will only be used for disputes between the signatory states and to the extent that the dispute relates to provisions set out in TiSA.

TiSA is to be compliant with European data protection standards. It will not be used to lower or undermine these standards.

Following the formal launch of talks in March 2013, there have been 21 rounds of negotiations, with the last one taking place in Geneva from 2 to 10 November 2016. This last round centred on financial services, issues related to transparency, transport services, and electronic transactions.

At present, there is no specific date by which the negotiations are to be concluded. Any ratification process would only begin once the agreement has been initialled and signed.

The negotiations on TiSA are not a secret affair. As in the case of other negotiations, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is keeping the Bundesrat and the Bundestag up to date by providing regular reports from the Trade Policy Committee, the body to which the European Commission reports on the negotiations. Furthermore, regular events are held for the ministries and the Länder, business associations, trade unions and NGOs. Participants in these events can ask questions and receive updates on the state-of-play of the negotiations.

The European Commission also does its bit to serve the public interest. For instance, the Commission held large-scale public consultations on TiSA in September 2013, and hosted a discussion as part of the establishment of a Trade Sustainability Impact Assessment in May 2014. The European Commission also published the Verhandlungsmandat (PDF: 212 KB) in March 2015. It is also host to a series of Civil Society Dialogues and uses these events to inform the public about the negotiations and the progress achieved. The last one of these events took place on 11 December 2015. Click here for additional information on the agenda, participating organisations and to find out how to register. Further information can be found here (in german).

The negotiations on TiSA relate to the services sector. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the EU is solely in charge of all matters related to the trade in services. Depending on whether the scope of TiSA will also include other elements such as the transport industry, for which the EU and the Member States share responsibility, TiSA may well become a mixed agreement. Should TiSA be a mixed agreement, as is currently planned, it would be subject to ratification by the parliaments of the EU Member States. Even if TiSA turns out not to be a mixed agreement, it would still be subject to approval by the Trade Ministers Council, i.e. the Member States.