Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy last week chaired a number of meetings in Brussels on the threats to public services proposed by the Japan-EU Free Trade Agreement (JAFTA).
Speaking from Brussels, Matt Carthy said:
“In a July, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, announced that they had found agreement on a future free trade agreement.
“So far there is no consolidated text available and MEPs do not know the full details of the agreement.
“The conclusion of negotiations is expected in December, with an agreement to be announced in February 2018.
“Announcing political agreement on a text that nobody has seen shows the Commission’s public commitment to transparency is worthless.
“The little that we do know however, has raised concerns.
“For instance, most financial services will be covered by JEFTA, effectively eliminating regulatory barriers leading to an exposed environment.
“The Commission has not carried out any assessment of the attendant risks to financial instability, despite the most recent financial crash still being fresh in all our minds.
“An impact assessment on the Mercosur trade deal has shown that liberalisation in finance would lead to an initial period of rapid growth, followed by a period of elevated risk of banking crisis.
“Increased liberalisation leads to increasing concentration in the financial sector. In this regard, JEFTA proposes no limits on the size of banks’ balance sheets.
“The failure of JEFTA to safeguard data protection is stark and regulatory cooperation will make maintaining the EU’s standards very difficult.
“The EU’s latest generation of trade agreements are not about reducing tariffs. They are about reducing regulatory barriers to trade on standards that protect the way we eat, drink and live.
“Regulatory cooperation is a significant threat to this. Why should big business have the power to avoid or modify laws that are designed to protect public services or health?
“There are major concerns among service providers and unions across Europe that the protections for public services achieved by them in CETA have not been replicated in the text of the agreement with Japan.
“There is no definition of a public service in the agreement, meaning that if Member States want to try and exempt a sector, such as healthcare, from liberalisation they will risk having to give foreign companies monetary compensation or compensatory liberalisation from another sector.
“Any agreement involving large-scale liberalisation of public procurement, and opening up a pathway towards privatisation of public services, will meet fierce opposition from European citizens and municipalities.
“The lack of transparency to date in relation to this deal has increased concerns. The days of secret backroom trade negotiations should have no place in the EU. It’s time we opened up the process in the interests of citizens and democracy.”