Presumably, Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) have been attempting to keep up with how the TiSA would effect the provision of vocational education and training in Australia. However, information appears to be limited.
General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is a treaty of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that entered into force in January 1995 as a result of the Uruguay Round negotiations] and clearly identifies education as a service sector to be liberalised.
“This [TiSA] will undermine the existing regulatory safe guards of our education system and limit Governments from regulating the actions of any overseas corporate providers of education.”
Private RTOs are worrying about voc. ed. & training subsidies demand and supply decisions by the Government – meanwhile the non-exclusion of education in free trade agreements will expose all Australian RTOs to exploitation by international corporate companies as profit will be placed above the delivery of quality education. [Bruce D. Watson]
Unregulated working environments put downward pressure on wages and conditions of employees in schools. Some vocational education and training trainers know too well the difficulties that can exist when an employer seeks to under value their contributions and reduce their working conditions.
Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA)
The Trade in Services Agreement () is a trade agreement currently being negotiated by 24 members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), including the EU. Together, these countries account for 70% of world trade in services.
TiSA is based on the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (), which involves all WTO members. The key provisions of the – scope, definitions, market access, national treatment and exemptions – are also found in .
The talks are based on proposals made by the participants. aims at opening up markets and improving rules in areas such as licensing, financial services, telecoms, e-commerce, maritime transport, and professionals moving abroad temporarily to provide services.
The European Commission negotiates based on a mandate issued by the governments of the EU’s 28 member countries. In March 2015, EU governments agreed to publish the mandate.
What does TiSA cover?
is facilitating trade in services in the countries taking part in the talks, so providers from one country can offer their services in another. An example would be an Australian lawyer advising a client in Canada.
Each country’s negotiators are discussing the terms and conditions which suppliers from other countries will have to meet in order to provide services in their market.
Negotiators are discussing all areas which the General Agreement on Trade in Service () already covers.
These include all service sectors except:
- air traffic rights – the rules on where and how airlines can carry passengers and freight between countries
- services only governments provide, such as justice, policing or defence.
Extract from the , Article I:3
3. For the purposes of this Agreement:
(b) “services” includes any service in any sector except services supplied in the exercise of governmental authority;
(c) “a service supplied in the exercise of governmental authority” means any service which is supplied neither on a commercial basis, nor in competition with one or more service suppliers.
addresses barriers to trade in services between the countries taking part in the talks. These barriers include:
- treating foreign suppliers differently from local ones – for example, a country might only allow companies owned by its own citizens to provide telecoms services. This type of barrier is called a ‘limitation to national treatment’.
- limiting the extent to which foreign suppliers can operate – for example, a country might impose an ‘economic needs test’ to assess whether the presence of foreign suppliers would increase competition beyond a certain level; such barriers are called ‘limitations to market access’.
Each country can choose:
- the types of service it wants to open to competition from the other countries taking part
- the extent to which it wants to do so.
So each country taking part in the makes commitments tailored to:
- the ways in which its markets for different services are structured
- any industries which it wishes to shield from foreign competition
- its level of economic development.
will not include measures designed to protect investors, such as an Investor to State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism.
GATS, Trade and Higher Education
In 2003, Dr Jane Knight said “There remains considerable uncertainty about the coverage and implications of General Agreement on Trade in Services [GATS] in the education sector, and a wide range of opinion about possible benefits and risks.”
Dr Knight raises important questions concerning quality assurance, professional mobility and recognition of qualifications, and considers the issues from the perspectives of both the developed and developing world. Included in the paper is a list of prominent organisations and groups that have taken an active interest in GATS. http://bit.ly/1KefPZw
While cross-border education is an important aspect of the internationalisation of higher education, it has not been subject to international trade rules and until recently, has not really been described as commercial trade. International trade agreements such as GATS [General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is a treaty of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that entered into force in January 1995 as a result of the Uruguay Round negotiations] which clearly identifies education as a service sector to be liberalised, is relatively new territory for the education sector.
This is why the debate within national and international education communities is necessary and welcomed. However, the discussions need to move from speculation towards informed analysis. The introduction of GATS serves as the catalyst for the education sector to move more deliberately into examining how trade rules may influence higher education policy, and determining whether the necessary national, regional and international education frameworks are in place to deal with the implications of increased cross-border education, including commercial trade.
Many of the issues raised still hold today.
Independent Education Union position statement
The Independent Education Union has lobbied the Australian Government to reject the inclusion of educational services into the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) In recent correspondence sent to Hon Andrew Robb MP, Minister for Trade and Investment, the IEU has outlined the threat that exists to Australian schools from the TISA given that the broad scope of the Agreement means education services could be impacted directly or indirectly
“Australia has a strong and vibrant educational system where state education systems and publicly funded faith based and independent schools work as partners to deliver quality education to students.” said Chris Watt, Federal Secretary.
“Central to this delivery are the strong regulatory bodies which exist in each state and oversee teacher registration and curriculum development “
“The inclusion of education into the TISA raises significant and serious concerns. Trade rules are legally binding and can open the door to the commercialisation and privatisation of education.”
“This will undermine the existing regulatory safe guards of our education system and limit Governments from regulating the actions of any overseas corporate providers of education.”
TISA Fails Teachers Working conditions and job security of IEU members will be placed at risk by TISA unless education is exempted. Unregulated working environments put downward pressure on wages and conditions of employees in schools. IEU members know too well the difficulties that can exist when an employer seeks to under value their contributions and reduce their working conditions.
The non-exclusion of education in free trade agreements will expose IEU members to exploitation by corporate companies as profit will be placed above the delivery of quality education.
Australia currently has little to gain and too much to lose from TISA It makes no sense for trade policy trade offs to regulate education. Further action is planned and IEU members are encouraged to lobby their local MP and ask the question “Will you protect quality education and exclude education from the Trade in Services Agreement.”