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11 de junio de 2015 | | | | | | |

Investment protection treaties, public services, free trade and energy

In the framework of the Public Forum” Just and Sovereign Energy System” that took place on June 4 in Montevideo, Uruguay, the participants focused on the influence of multilateral and bilateral free trade agreements or protection investment treaties on public services, especially in the energy field.

Alberto Villareal, member of REDES-Friends of the Earth Uruguay, focused his intervention in the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) which fifty countries of the world are negotiating, among them Uruguay, although faced with the resistance of social and union groups, and the effects of this agreement in a State that keeps a monopoly on the transmission and commercialization of electricity and oil refining.

Villareal stated that the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), as emerging economies, are marginalized from these negotiations and that the center of geopolitical influence continues in the hands of the US and Europe.

"To decommodify the provision and distribution of energy and to promote transition policies, we require regulatory changes in national legislations", that some TISA clauses would make impossible, said Villareal.

The TISA includes, in addition to the "most privileged nation" treatment, other mechanisms such as "ratchet" and "status quo" through which the ability of States to safeguard parts of their strategic sectors is limited, and which make it impossible to pass protection laws.

The environmental activist, who is also part of the Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity that seeks a Binding Treaty for corporations in terms of human rights said that some contents included in the TISA that are currently negotiated in Geneva are detrimental for the sovereignty of States, including in terms of public procurement or concessions.

"Currently, the Uruguayan State has the capacity to give preference to local companies in concessions, something which would be prohibited by the TISA", said Villareal. "Uruguayan energy utilities, such as UTE (electricity) or ANCAP (oil) could not provide a preferential price to other Uruguayan companies" if the agreement is signed, he stated.

In its latest stage, the TISA draft that 50 governments are negotiating in secret establishes the need to regulate health, water, finance, telecommunications, transparency and transport services in a supranational way, and establishes that signatory countries provide foreign financial service providers the same treatment to national providers. The instrument would have priority over regulations established by different cultural, social, environmental reasons (to face climate change) or development reasons, and it would establish, if signed, the ability of "private "trade" tribunals" to decide on how countries regulate activities that are fundamental for social wellbeing, states an analysis published by Wikileaks based on classified documents leaked about TISA.

The Forum was organized by REDES-Friends of the Earth Uruguay and the Sustainable Uruguay Program, with the support of Heinrich Böll Stiftung, France Libertes Fondation Danielle Mitterrand y the Transnational Institute (TNI, Netherlands).

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