New EPSU working paper on CETA and TTIP: Potential impacts on health and social services

(3 May 2016) Please find below a new working paper and an executive summary (translated into French, German and Spanish) from EPSU on the potential harmful impact of CETA and TTIP (and other trade and investment agreements) on healthcare and social services. The working paper analyses the potential impact of CETA and TTIP on issues such as:

  • hospital planning
  • staff-patient ratios
  • health and safety regulations
  • mutual recognition of professional qualifications
  • temporary stay of health professionals in another country
  • socially-responsible public procurement and
  • locking in of health and social service privatisations.

The European Commission and Member States argue that health and social services have been protected during the last 20 years since the EU negotiated GATS an therefore no new measures are needed. However, as pointed out in a recent EPSU/AK Europa exchange on a new study from Professor Markus Krajewski, GATS should be seen as a sandcastle, constructed at a time of low tide. Previously EU trade policy was less focused on regulatory measures and mainly dealt with opening public service markets in developing countries. Today trade agreements are being negotiated with highly-developed countries with offensive export interests in public services. These agreements reflect an agenda that goes beyond trade and includes investment protection, public procurement and much more. In this context the GATS sandcastle-like protections are not sufficient.

The EPSU working paper sets out detailed arguments and examples of the loopholes and shortcomings of the GATS-like protections that the EU and Member States rely on and highlights the new threats posted by ISDS/ICS.

EPSU considers that politicians and others with a responsibility to ensure access to quality healthcare and social services should be more active in the trade debate. From the EPSU working paper it is clear that CETA – whose ratification is due to be discussed in the Trade Council as early as the 13 May - poses specific risks that have been inadequately addressed. However, to what extent in the different Member States have discussions on these risks taken place? 

EPSU considers that urgent intervention is needed to raise awareness about the risks of CETA and TTIP to quality healthcare and social service for all and to lobby governments – and in this case in particular health Ministers -  to oppose CETA’s ratification and demand the full exclusion of public services from TTIP. Affiliates and health organisations can also demand their Government to carry out an impact assessment of the effect of CETA on heath and social services. For more ideas of what you can do please see the action plan against CETA included in the report of the  EPSU/ETUI  training  seminar on CETA held in March and endorsed by the EPSU Executive Committee at its meeting on 19-20 April. 

It is important that we hear back from you about what pressure you are able to put on your health and social services Minister(s) and politicians. This will help us coordinate activities and better protect health and social services (and other public services) in trade and investment agreements. If you are able to organise national meetings / press activity on the EPSU study we will be pleased to support you as we can.

In particular your actions now in the different Member States to oppose CETA (and raise the concerns about TTIP, TiSA etc), will strengthen also our possibilities to influence later the position taken in the European Parliament. 

Read also an article on the German news website ZEIT ONLINE ‘Gesundheit und Pflege sind keine Handelsware‘ (a contribution based on the paper of Thomas Fritz, written by Mathias Maucher, policy officer Health and Social Services in the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) and Philip Gasse, student political science at the University of Marburg, currently working at ver.di on health, social services, welfare and churches).