Picture: European Union 2015 / EP
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a trade agreement that is presently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. It aims at removing trade barriers in a wide range of economic sectors to make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the European Union (EU) and the United States (US). In other words, its goal is to reduce and eliminate tariff and regulatory barriers to trade and investment. EAEA believes that education is a public good and that it should not be part of the TTIP negotiations.
In July 2015 TTIP negotiations moved to the 10th Round with a renewed mandate from all the parts involved in the process. Indeed, at their last meeting in June, the leaders of the G7, including EU and US presidents Juncker, Tusk and Obama, gave the EU and US clear indications to intensify the discussions on TTIP and identify the way forward on all areas. In the same month, both the European Council and the US Congress provided additional political impetus and support to trade negotiations.
On 8 July 2015 the European Parliament adopted a report, drafted by TTIP-spokesperson and rapporteur MEP Bernd Lange (Socialists & Democrats, Germany), which on the one hand states that EU-US trade deal must open up US market access for EU firms, but on the other this must not undermine EU standards. The 11th and 12th rounds took place in the winter 2015–2016.
European Parliament discussing the TTIP at plenary in Strasbourg, 7 July 2015. Photo: © European Union 2015 – source: EP.
The latest documents published on the European Commission's website show that education is to be excluded from the TTIP. The document called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: Services and investment offer of the EU contains the services and investment offer of the European Union made in the context of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations. It was tabled for discussion with the US in the negotiating round of 12–17 July 2015 and made public on 31 July 2015. It states:
"The EU reserves the right to adopt or maintain any measure with respect to the following: (i) Education services Affected obligations and scope (CPC code) The EU with regard to education services which receive public funding or State support in any form, and are therefore not considered to be privately funded (CPC 92) and with regard to privately funded other education services (CPC 929)."
It seems that EAEA and partner's lobbying efforts were successful and that education is clearly out of the TTIP. EAEA will continue to monitor the situation.
Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, represents EU side in the negotations. Photo: © European Union, 2015 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Etienne Ansotte
Education was not known as being part of the negotiations until spring 2014. As the negotiations at the beginning were mostly happening behind closed doors, it was not easy to find precise information about them. However, after several documents were leaked after the results of the EU Ombudsman consultation were published, asking for more transparency, we could learn that education was subjected to this treaty. This conclusion was also reflected in World Trade Organization's (WTO) General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), article I, paragraph 3, and the WTO paper on educational services, were education is described merely as a service. After learning that news, EAEA and other European Civil society organisations reacted firmly (see resources).
After more than one year of monitoring and advocacy work, in summer 2015 they welcomed the European Parliament vote on a resolution that includes a fairly strong sentence that aims to exclude publicly funded education from the agreement (read the EAEA news article to learn more).
MEP Helga Trüpel (Greens/EFA, DE) was the rapporteur for the European Parliament's Committee for Culture and Education on TTIP. Photo: © European Union 2016 – Source: EP.
EAEA believes that education is a public good and that it should not be part of the TTIP negotiations. Therefore, our aim is to make sure that EU negotiators formally exclude education from the effects of the TTIP.
During the last two years, EAEA has been in contact with several policy-makers. Among others, it also met with MEP Helga Trüpel, rapporteur for the European Parliament's Committee for Culture and Education on TTIP, and shared its views on the issue. The negotiating team said that they will try to exclude public education while including private education. The problem is that in many jurisdictions the line between what is public and what is private education is blurry.
EAEA has also been attending meetings with other civil society organisations and umbrella organisations to define common positions and share information.
Currently, 23 Members of the World Trade Organisation, including the EU, are negotiating the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). It aims at opening up the international market for Services and improving rules.
In its resolution in February 2016, the European Parliament presented recommendations to the European Commission. The resolution protects public education in the TiSA negotiations. The resolution recommends to "exclude, in line with Articles 14 and 106 TFEU and Protocol 26, current and future services of general interest and services of general economic interest from the scope of application of the agreement (including, but not limited to, water, health, social services, social security systems and education, waste management and public transport); to ensure that EU, national and local authorities retain the full right to introduce, adopt, maintain or repeal any measures with regard to the commissioning, organisation, funding and provision of public services; to apply this exclusion irrespective of how the public services are provided and funded; to ensure that social security systems are excluded from the scope of application of the agreement; to reject the proposal on a patient mobility annex, which is opposed by the majority of TiSA participants; to recognise the great importance attached by European citizens to high-quality public services that contribute to social and territorial cohesion".
The EU position refers to the public educational system. Companies from other countries cannot provide services in this sector. This regulation applies as well in the other EU trade agreements. This is different in the sector of private education. Every member state can decide on the national level if and under which conditions companies from a third state are allowed to provide private education services. Every member state can still pursue their own educational policies and programmes.
EAEA and other educational organisations as EAEA member’s European Office for Youth and Adult Education, advocated strongly to make sure that the education sector remains protected and thus to exclude education from the Trade in Services Agreement. This advocacy work was successful.