Thank you for your recent email about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the free-trade agreement that is currently being negotiated between the USA and the EU. I know that there are very strong concerns about some aspects of the TTIP and I have been passing on those concerns to my colleagues.
Firstly, with regard to the Backbench Business Debate taking place today, I‘m afraid I am unable to take part due to commitments in the constituency but I am really pleased that this important issue is being debated in Parliament and very strongly agree that the proposals require complete transparency and robust scrutiny at both UK and EU level.
I want to make clear first of all that the TTIP, a trade agreement between the US, the world’s largest economy, and the largest single market, the EU, really does have the potential to bring significant benefits. Europe and the United States are the UKs’ most important markets today. Indeed, the US is the UK’s biggest export market and likewise the UK economy attracts a significant level of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from across the Atlantic. That’s why Labour is supporting the basic principles behind these negotiations in recognition that more and better trade is good for the UK. From a US perspective the US unions are pressing to get EU levels of rights and protection in areas such as employment, so it has the potential to create equal measures across the Atlantic in solidarity with the US unions.
However, we do have four main areas of concern:
Public services: we share the concerns about the impact that TTIP could have on public services encouraging commercialisation, particularly in the NHS. Labour believes that the NHS and all public services need to be more, not less, integrated. That is why we believe that the NHS and other public services should be exempt from the agreement. Other countries are seeking to exempt such areas from the agreement but our Tory-led Government has not done this. Labour will continue to press for exemption.
Investor State Dispute Resolution (ISDS): this is a dispute mechanism, already used in trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties. It allows investors to take proceedings against a government that is party to that trade agreement. If the government is found to be in breach of the obligations, the investor can receive redress. There is a major concern that the ISDS provisions could hinder our plans to reverse the privatisation of the NHS as it could result in those companies seeking compensation for loss of potential earnings. We believe that it is a right of governments to be able to legislate in the public interest and this should be protected effectively in any dispute resolution mechanisms. The European Commission has instigated several changes which have improved the transparency of the agreement, however it can and must go further. That is why Labour has been calling for far greater transparency around an exclusion for legislation in the public interest, like the NHS or food safety regulations.
Standards: the benefits of any treaty must filter down to employees and consumers. Treaties can cement and even increase labour, consumer, environmental and safety standards. Concerns have been raised that TTIP could reduce standards, although the principle behind the treaty is to keep or raise standards rather than reduce them. Labour will only support an agreement that avoids a race to the bottom and promotes decent jobs and growth with robust safeguarded standards on environmental, labour, safety and consumer issues
Non-inclusion of the US States: A significant stumbling block has been raised that the US states are not covered by the agreement and therefore procurement will not opened up. This mean we could be at a disadvantage as our markets are opened up but not to the same extent in the US. This is important because significant procurement spend in the US is at the State level.
A number of worries similar to our own have been raised by other member states and these have to be reflected to secure agreement and taken on board by the new Trade Commissioner.
So, the TIIP is a trade deal as is the one the EU has just signed with Canada, Korea and Columbia. It’s also the same as the negotiations with India and other nations, but Labour will not support it at UK or EU level if ISDS is included and if the general exemption for public services is not included.
I hope this is helpful and outlines our position with regard to TTIP.
Kate Green MP
Labour Member of Parliament for Stretford and Urmston
Parliamentary office tel:
020 7219 7162
Constituency office tel:
0161 749 9120
If you have a response from your MP on TTIP, please email it to stopTTIP.MCR@ gmail.com. Thanks!