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Public services: protected

TTIP and the topic of public services. While many people may have understandable concerns around this topic, it is important to clarify that TTIP will not break with a decades-long tradition of the EU of protecting public services in its trade deals. TTIP will not change the current or future public services focus of health, education, welfare and water supply in EU member states. Decisions on opening up public services to private providers will continue to be taken by elected national governments. National and local authorities will remain free to decide what they consider to be a public service or utility of general social and economic interest.

EU member state governments at all levels (central to local) will retain the full right to regulate public services as they deem appropriate. TTIP will not encroach on governments’ right to prevent foreign firms from investing in or supplying certain publicly-owned and funded healthcare, education, social and water utility services etc. EU governments will also remain free to bring outsourced services back into the public sector whenever they want to, so long as they respect property rights and law.

"TTIP will not encroach on governments’ right to decide against opening up public healthcare, education, social and water utility services to competition from private providers."

How public services are protected in all EU trade agreements – A four pillar approach

In fact, the EU includes specific guarantees and reservations in all of its trade agreements to fully protect public services, and has done so for 20 years. In this manner the EU, makes sure that EU governments remain free to choose how to run their public services and cannot be forced to liberalise their public services. The same will apply to TTIP.

The guarantees the EU puts in all of its trade deals to protection of public services are based on a four pillar approach:

  • EU governments can organise public service sectors as a monopoly market allowing only a single public or private service provider (not for telecommunication and computer services).

  • EU governments can prevent market access to service providers from outside the EU for publically funded services like healthcare, social, education or water utility services.

  • EU governments can exclude non-EU companies from subsidies they grant in the public services sector.

  • EU governments are free to choose how they regulate any service. This also goes for public services. EU governments can for instance choose how they treat the granting of licenses for service providers or set quality standards. 

Public services: protected

Likewise, there is nothing in the EU’s trade agreements that prevents a government from reversing its decision to outsource certain services, provided they respect the terms of the contract involved.

The EU includes the above mentioned guarantees in trade agreements by specifying exceptions via either a negative or positive listing approach. A negative listing approach opens all services to foreign suppliers apart from those specifically listed whereas a positive listing approach only opens those that are listed. But the end result is the same either way – the EU protects its public services.

Click here for more information about how the EU protects public services in all of its trade deals.


EU and US trade chiefs confirm - Public services are safe under future EU & US trade deals

Both the EU and the US recognise the important role of public services. That’s why on 20 March 2015, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and the US Trade Representative Mike Froman issued a Joint Public Statement in which they confirm that “EU and US trade agreements do not prevent governments, at any level, from providing or supporting services in areas such as water, education, health, and social services”.

They also guaranteed that EU or US trade deals cannot force governments to privatise any service, prevent them from expanding the range of public services offered or publically provide services that had previously been privatised. Both sides also confirmed their trade deals “do not impede governments’ ability to adopt or maintain regulations to ensure the high quality of services and to protect important public interest objectives, such as the protection of health, safety, or the environment.”

Ms Malmström, the EU Trade Commissioner, previously confirmed the protection of public services in EU trade agreements in an open letter to the UK Minister of State for Trade and Investment - with specific focus on the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) - and an open letter to the European Social Platform.

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