ETUCE is a strong advocator of free quality public education for all and maintains that education is a human right and a public good, which is the responsibility of governments. ETUCE monitors international trade and investment agreements that the EU is pursuing and which may expose the education sector to privatisation and commercialisation pressures. ETUCE urges decision makers to entirely exclude education from trade agreements. Formally these trade agreements currently being negotiated are about trade, that is lowing tariff rates and quotas, however the main issues concern regulatory convergence and the elimination of "non-tariff" barrier to trade. Therefore, such trade agreements pose potentially serious risks for education policy, for public schools and other educational institutions, as well as for teachers, students and communities in the EU.

Related topics

The negotiations on the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) were proposed by the US and Australia in early 2012. TiSA negotiations arose in response to the ongoing impasse in WTO trade talks, including talks to expand the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The participants call themselves the "Really Good Friends of Services" and are the strongest advocates of service liberalisation. The TiSA participants include the EU, Australia, Canada, Chile, Taiwan, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey and the US.

The negotiations are held in secret and details on the proposed TiSA are therefore very limited. However, following a number of TiSA leaks, the European Commission has created a dedicated page on TiSA.

On this dedicated TiSA page the Commission has published its service offer, which includes significant commitments in privately-funded education services, even if the commitments vary slightly between member states because of specific exemptions taken. As a result, the EU and its member states are effectively opening the door to foreign for-profit education providers. The limitation for publicly-funded education is of very general character and not defined. Furthermore, in the EU’s proposed core text provisions there is not a single reference to any exception for public services or Services of General Interest from the scope of the agreement. ETUCE demands that education is entirely excluded from these negotiations and stresses that education and public services are put at risk if not explicitly excluded from TiSA.

Until recently the European Parliament (EP) was not involved in the TiSA negotiations; however after the elections to the EP in May 2014, INTA (committee on international trade) has started dealing with TiSA, partly because of the many concerns expressed after the leaks in 2014. Viviane Reding, EPP, has been appointed the rapporteur for TiSA. In a press conference on 13 January 2015 she said that so far the EP had not been involved in any way in TiSA negotiations. She also denounced the complete lack of transparency and said that transparency is absolutely crucial as well as the need for the EP, the social partners and NGOs to be involved. The European Parliament is in the process of drafting its recommendations for the TiSA negotiations and has published its working document.

More information
The results of the European Commission's public consultation on TiSA