WikiLeaks Releases and Labour Rights

17 July 2019 — Defend Wikileaks

WikiLeaks publishes source documents from governments and corporations around the world, allowing for a full text search of more than 10 million documents. These files expose backroom negotiations of the most powerful governments and companies across the globe, finally giving the public its rightful seat at the table of democratic discourse.

PDF of this Brief

From 2013 to 2016, WikiLeaks made public portions of three major trade agreements — the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), the Trade in Service Agreement (TiSA) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) — which had been drafted and negotiated in secret, without proper democratic oversight. The publications contain multiple draft chapters and negotiating positions of participating countries. The revelations provided insight into concrete provisions of the agreements, which then fueled social justice and fair trade movements, civil rights organisations and trade unions in opposition to the agreements. The TPP and TTIP have since been stalled, while TiSA remains classified.

The trade documents, included in WikiLeaks’ searchable archive, are of continued use to unions, civil society organisations, researchers and policy analysts, as they make public the negotiations that the powerful would otherwise keep shielded from scrutiny.


The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

  • Published by WikiLeaks: 13 November 2013 – 9 October 2015
  • WikiLeaks press release: Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) – IP Chapter
  • Negotiating parties: United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile

Since the beginning of the TPP negotiations, the process of drafting and negotiating the treaty’s chapters was shrouded in an unprecedented level of secrecy, shielded from the general public and proper oversight. The revealed documents – first the most controversial IP Chapter on 13 November 2013 and later the entire draft agreement – exposed that TPP strongly reflected US trade objectives and multinational corporate interests “with little focus on the rights and interests of consumers, let alone broader community interests,” according to IP law expert Matthew Rimmer.

Civil rights movements, digital rights activists and unions’ opposition to the agreement was further fueled by the revelations. Multiple organisations and groups have welcomed WikiLeaks’ publications of the previously secret documents:

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Civil society groups are coming out in force against the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, following Wikileaks’ publication of the “Intellectual Property” chapter. The leaked chapter confirmed our worst fears that TPP carries Hollywood’s wishlist of policies, including provisions to encourage ISPs to police user activities and liability for users for simply bypassing digital locks on content and devices for legal purposes.

Intellectual Property Watch

For years, the United States and partner governments have worked vigorously to keep the publics they represent from knowing what they are negotiating behind closed doors in the top-secret Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. But today’s Wikileaks release of the draft intellectual property chapter blew that up, confirming the fears of public interest groups that this is an agreement heavily weighted toward big industry interests.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons and 47 civil society organizations and academics released a letter (PDF) calling on negotiators of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to publish the draft text of the agreement. Up until now the text of the TPP has been developed mostly in secret by the 12 negotiating countries. Wikileaks published a draft text of the chapter on intellectual property in October, revealing several provisions that would threaten access to and re-use of creative works, including an arrangement to allow countries to extend copyright terms by another 20 years. CC and other groups wrote a letter calling for that proposal to be rescinded.

Public Citizen

WikiLeaks’ publication today of the final Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Intellectual Property chapter text verifies that the pact would harm public health by blocking patient access to lifesaving medicines, Public Citizen said today. “If the TPP is ratified, people in Pacific Rim countries would have to live by the rules in this leaked text,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines program. “The new monopoly rights for big pharmaceutical firms would compromise access in TPP countries. The TPP would cost lives.”

The Australian Council of Trade Unions

“The TPP makes corporate profits more important than protections for clean air, clean water, climate stability and workers’ rights,” said ACTU President Ged Kearney. “TPP talks are being held in secret without unions, business, church, environmental or community groups being involved – this is great for big multinational companies but terrible for ordinary people and the role of governments. The trade union movement has repeatedly advocated for a balanced agreement that serves all of your constituents’ interests, and not simply those of corporations.”


Intellectual Property Chapter favoring monopolies at the expense of consumers

The IP Chapter lays out provisions for instituting a far-reaching, transnational legal and enforcement regime, modifying or replacing existing laws in TPP member states. The Chapter’s subsections include agreements relating to patents (who may produce goods or drugs), copyright (who may transmit information), trademarks (who may describe information or goods as authentic) and industrial design. Intellectual property experts are critical of the draft treaty, which they say would help the multinational movie and music industries, software giants and pharmaceutical manufacturers to maintain and increase prices by reinforcing the rights of copyright and patent owners, clamping down on online piracy and raising obstacles to the introduction of generic drugs and medicines.

Access to and cost of medicine

Concerns have been raised over the effect it could have on the cost of medicines – by extending the intellectual property rights of certain branded drugs, delays in the development of cheaper, ‘generic’ versions of these drugs could ensue, potentially leading to poorer people having to wait much longer than the wealthy to get access to the newest medicines, reported The Independent at the time.

Heavy focus on enforcement measures against internet privacy

The rules also state that every country has the authority to immediately give the name and address of anyone importing detained goods to whoever owns the intellectual property.

Threat to global freedom of expression

The treaty, as The Guardian reports, appears to give signatories greater power to stop information from going public that is the ability to curtail legal proceedings if the theft of information is “detrimental to a party’s economic interests, international relations, or national defense or national security” – in other words, presumably, if a trial would cause the information to spread.

“This deal poses a grave threat to global freedom of expression and basic access to things like medicine and information,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of digital rights group Fight for the Future.


Trade in Services Agreement

  • Published by WikiLeaks: June 2014 – October 2016
  • WikiLeaks press release: Trade in Services Agreement
  • Negotiating parties: United States, European Union (28 countries), Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan and Turkey. Combined they represent almost 70 percent of all trade in services worldwide.

Negotiated and prepared in secret over several years, the documents made available by WikiLeaks reveal that the general aim of TiSA is further deregulation and privatisation of worldwide trade in services in areas such as banking, healthcare and transport.

The revelations served to inform and empower civil rights movements and trade unions in their demand for democratic oversight of the negotiations and against the provisions of the agreement that furthered the deregulationist agenda. Labour movements and unions have relied on the revelations to protest the agreement:

Communications Workers of America (CWA)

“Once again Wikileaks reveals what we cannot learn from our own government, a government that defaults to prefer giant trade deals that effect generations of Americans shrouded in secrecy until they are virtually adopted. Today’s leaks of TISA (trade in services) text reveal once again how dangerous Fast Track Authority is when it comes to protecting citizen rights vs. corporate rights.  This TISA text again favors privatization over public services, limits governmental action on issues ranging from safety to the environment using trade as a smokescreen to limit citizen rights.  Those in the US Congress considering Fast Track should take heed.  TISA is as big a blow to our rights and freedom as the Trans- Pacific Partnership and in both cases our government’s secrecy is the key enabler.” — Larry Cohen, CWA President

Public Services International (PSI)

Rosa Pavanelli, PSI General Secretary: “It is outrageous that our democratically elected governments will not tell us the laws they are making. What has our democracy come to when the community must rely on Wikileaks to find out what our governments are doing on our behalf.”

“The irony of the text containing repeated references to transparency, and an entire Annex on transparency requiring governments to provide information useful to business, being negotiated in secret from the population exposes in whose interests these agreements are being made”

The International Trades Union Confederation (ITUC)

The International Trades Union Confederation is concerned by the leaked documents, published by whistleblowing website Wikileaks, which revealed how the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) will further consolidate corporate power and threaten the public interest.

The International Transport Federation (ITF)

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has warned that classified documents published by Wikileaks on the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) foresee consolidated power for big transport industry players and threaten the public interest, jobs and a voice for workers.

UNI Global Union

WikiLeaks released two sets of documents including the secret Core Text for the largest ‘trade deal’ in history, the TiSA (Trade In Services Agreement, whose 52 nations together comprise two-thirds of global GDP. UNI Global Union would like to express its deepest concern regarding the expected consequences of this deal which would further jeopardize the capacity of democratically elected governments to decide about public interest regulation.

European Public Service Union (EPSU)

Newly released Wikileaks documents make it clear that the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is no more than a corporate power grab and that negotiations must be stopped. The European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU)’s General Secretary Jan Willem Goudriaan stated that “We strongly oppose the EU’s demand for market access in public services. Competition in these services undermines the build-up of quality public services in developing countries. The EU should not kick away the ladder to development.”

Education International (EI)

“These leaks give a clear indication of the dangerous direction of the TiSA negotiations. The fact that citizens and civil society are still obliged to rely on leaks for getting a sense of the direction of the negotiations is deeply unsatisfactory,” said Fred van Leeuwen, General Secretary of EI.

Campaign for Trade Union Freedom: WikiLeaks Release Secret TiSA Papers

The TISA release today follows the WikiLeaks publication of the secret draft financial services annex of the TISA negotiations on 19th June 2014 showing the aim to further deregulate the financial sector, despite widespread consensus that lack of oversight and regulation was the main cause of the last global financial crisis of 2008.

The release confirms the ongoing determination to deregulate. Furthermore, standstill clauses will tie the hands of future governments to implement changes in response to changing environment.



Planned secrecy of the agreement’s entry into force

The cover page of the negotiating document published by WikiLeaks says: “Declassify on: Five years from entry into force of the TISA agreement or, if no agreement enters into force, five years from the close of the negotiations.”

Radically undermining the rights to privacy and data protection

The documents reveal that TiSA provisions are set to weaken existing data protection provisions in signatory countries. They include ban on any restrictions on cross border information flows and localisation requirements for ICT service providers, allowing financial institutions, such as banks, the free transfer of data, including personal data, from one country to another. This practically means that no participating state can stop the use, storage and exchange of personal data relating to their territorial base.

Further liberalisation of trade and investment in services

Trade Unions have argued that the agreement will expand “regulatory disciplines” on all services sectors, including many public services. The “disciplines,” or treaty rules, would provide all foreign providers access to domestic markets at “no less favorable” conditions as domestic suppliers and would restrict governments’ ability to regulate, purchase and provide services. This would essentially change the regulation of many public and privatised or commercial services from serving the public interest to serving the profit interests of private, foreign corporations. Of particular concern were plans for further deregulation and liberalisation impacting the public sector and transport industries; and, provisions that force countries to eliminate foreign ownership ceilings in publicly provided telecommunications and favour privatisation.

Final wave of privatisation of public services

Amendments from the US are seeking to end publicly provided services like public pension funds, which are referred to as “monopolies” and to limit public regulation of all financial services.

“Ratchet” clause

Already privatised companies would be prevented from a re-transfer to the public sector by a so-called barring “ratchet clause” – even if the privatisation failed.


Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

The TTIP is a proposed trade agreement between the European Union and the United States addressing e-commerce and transatlantic data flows. The agreement was negotiated in secret, with the European Commission instituting a 30-year ban on public access to the TTIP negotiating texts at the beginning of talks in 2013, giving privileged access to corporate insiders.

The agreement itself has been criticised and opposed by unions, charities, NGOs and environmentalists, particularly in Europe who have expressed demands to debate the agreement in parliaments and other public forums and to leave intellectual property out of the agreement. The Independent describes TTIP as “reducing the regulatory barriers to trade for big business, things like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations.” The paper calls the agreement an “inherent assault on democracy” and notes that John Hilary, Executive Director of campaign group War on Want calls it an “assault on European and US societies by transnational corporations.”

Furthermore, the secrecy of negotiations has been criticised and opposed by unions, NGOs, environmentalists and left-wing parties, particularly in Europe and the UK, who have demanded to debate the agreement in parliaments and other public forums. Leaked chapters have supported widely held fears that EU countries will be left open to legal action from third-party companies should national regulations impede on their profits (via a controversial ISDS clause) and that the agreement poses a profound threat to public services, leaving them open to greater privatisation and liberalisation, with governments strongly limited to regulate their operation with safety and health standards or re-transfer them to public sector. In the UK, of particular concern was ramifications for the National Health Service (NHS), as critics have said that TTIP threatens to make permanent the outsourcing of health services in Britain by allowing US multinationals, or any firm with American investors, to sue any future UK government if it attempts to take privatised health services back into public ownership, jeopardising their profits.

WikiLeaks published a searchable version of a 218-page document made public by Greenpeace some days before, making the text widely accessible and useful to researchers and policy analysts. Labour movements and unions have relied on the leaks to protest the agreement:

Unite (PDF)

TTIP would establish in law the right of multinational corporations to sue nation states in a special court – the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) – if the nation’s regulatory framework were deemed a ‘barrier’ to free trade.

Unite still believes that there is a continuing lack of transparency surrounding the (treaty) negotiations and a continuing failure to address any of the other key areas of concern. Unite is therefore extremely concerned that on this current path we will be presented with a fait accompli in the form of an inadequate, and unacceptable agreement that we have had no chance of influencing or, amending and where time constraints make it difficult to mobilise opposition.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite:

“The government and bureaucrats from Brussels thought that they could tie this deal up behind closed doors without any fuss, but ordinary people who care about the NHS recognise this danger and are making their opposition clear.”


The proposed inclusion of an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) is particularly alarmingasthis extremely dangerous mechanism will effectively limit, weaken and undermine the power of democratically elected national governments and public authorities to legislate in the public interest, whilst giving unelected  and  unaccountable foreign businesses and investors unprecedented control to challenge directly state actions which they perceive to be a threat to their profit-making. It also poses a major threat to public services and labour standards.

Bert Schouwenburg, GMB International Officer:

“Their desire for what is effectively a transatlantic corporate bill of rights must not be allowed to come to fruition. As talks on the deal reopen today we are calling on David Cameron and the UK Government not to sacrifice the public interest on the altar of corporate profit.”

University and College Union (UCU)

UCU believes that it poses a profound threat to public services in general, including education, leaving them wide open not only to greater privatisation but making it harder for any future government to regulate foreign private sector companies operating in our public services. The TTIP is also an affront to democracy. The talks are being pursued without any transparency or democratic oversight by the EU and the US.


As a public sector trade union, UNISON is opposed to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership as we believe it is a profound threat to public services, especially through the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions which could limit the ability of the Scottish Government to regulate in the public interest and could also lead to the liberalisation of public services. We are also opposed to its threats to regulatory standards which will affect our members by restricting employment and trade union rights and threaten health and safety legislation. Lastly we are worried about its potential effect on climate change and the environment.

Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)

TTIP could be disastrous for public services by forcing further deregulation and liberalisation. TTIP will weaken environmental regulation, dictate energy policy and severely limit our ability to tackle climate change.



Threat to privacy and data protection rights

The publications provided indications that European data protection standards could be undermined by such a trade agreement. Civil society and consumer organisations both in the EU and the United States have warned that draft provisions in the chapter on e-commerce and electronic data flows pose a threat to European privacy and data protection rights.

Corporate power over public and health and safety regulations – Investor-State Disputes Settlement (ISDS)

The documents show that US corporations will be granted unprecedented powers over any new public health or safety regulations to be introduced in future. If any European government does dare to bring in laws to raise social or environmental standards, TTIP will grant US investors the right to sue for loss of profits in their own corporate court system that is unavailable to domestic firms, governments or anyone else.

Public services will not be exempt from the Agreement

EU countries will be left open to legal action from third-party companies should national regulations impede on their profits. Governments will be unable to renationalize public services such as education and health, making their privatisation irreversible.

Opening European economy to unfair competition of US corporations

The leaked texts also reveal how the European Commission is preparing to open up the European economy to unfair competition from giant US corporations, despite acknowledging the disastrous consequences this will bring to European producers, who have to meet far higher standards than pertain in the USA. According to official statistics, at least one million jobs will be lost as a direct result of TTIP – and twice that many if the full deal is allowed to go through.

Threat to privacy and data protection rights

The publications provided indications that European data protection standards could be undermined by such a trade agreement. Civil society and consumer organisations both in the EU and the United States have warned that draft provisions in the chapter on e-commerce and electronic data flows pose a threat to European privacy and data protection rights.

Jeopardizing EU environmental protections and standards

The leaked EU’s draft text for a trade and sustainable development chapter is proposing to undermine hard-won climate commitments, such as European efforts to save energy and switch to clean power, and the pledge made at the G7 summit to phase out fossil fuel subsidies within a decade.

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