Red lines on TTIP

I spoke at the Save the NHS from TTIP rally in Hull on Saturday. It was a well attended event, despite the weather.

It’s not that I oppose trade agreements between Europe and America. As a Yorkshire & Humber MEP, I’m well aware of how our small and large manufacturers could benefit from a reduction in American tariffs. But some of the mooted elements of this agreement are unacceptable.

Of course, it’s not yet a done deal. We may be two or more years away from the conclusion of the negotiations. And we’re told that some of our worst fears will not materialise. But it’s as well to flag up our concerns and outright opposition to certain proposals already. After all, if we wait until the end, we’ll be told it’s too late to change the contents of the agreement and we should have spoken earlier. At that point, huge pressure will be put on MEPs not to jeopardise a strategic agreement approved by all the governments of EU countries.

By speaking out now, we can warn the negotiators (the US government, and the European Commission mandated by European governments) that, if they include certain elements, they will risk losing the whole agreement.

There can be no TTIP without European Parliamentary approval. MEPs have shown before that they are prepared to reject agreements — even with the USA — when their contents cause major concerns, as we saw when Parliament rejected the SWIFT agreement on bank data transfers and the ACTA agreement on intellectual property rights.

Within the European Parliament, Labour MEPs, our colleagues in the Socialist Group, and many others have made it clear that we will oppose TTIP if it threatens public services in general and the health service in particular by allowing American companies to tender against public provision — or if it creates a ratchet effect whereby privatised health provision cannot be brought back under public control.

The current UK government maintains that there is no such threat to the NHS. But nobody trusts them. After all, they came to power promising “no top-down reform of the NHS” before embarking on an immense, costly and damaging “reform”, privatising many aspects of it. And they have not explicitly requested that the health sector be added to the list of areas exempt from the TTIP negotiations.

We also have concerns about what is known as the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). This would grant an investor, typically a large multinational company, the right to use dispute settlement proceedings against governments, separate from the normal judicial system of that country, if their investments are adversely affected by changes in public policy.

We’re told that these are nothing new and have been included in many past trade agreements across the world. Indeed they have — and it’s precisely that experience that has given cause for concern! Tobacco companies sued the Australian government for loss of profits when it brought in plain package cigarette packaging. Nuclear companies have sued Germany for its decision to phase out nuclear energy. There are several other disquieting examples.

Cameron said on Sunday that he wants to “put rocket boosters” under these talks. Maybe. He has obvious political motives to want to hurry things along. But unless the negotiators take heed of our concerns, there will be no TTIP.

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  1. So, for example, BBC —

    “The government has sold an 80% stake in blood products company Plasma Resources UK to a US private equity firm.

    Bain Capital paid £230m for the majority stake in the company, which supplies the NHS with treatments for haemophilia and immune deficiencies.”

    Would TTIP make it difficult or impossible to buy this stake back from Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, or lay the government open to being sued for trying to influence the standards of care of the business ?

  2. Lockheed Martin looking after your GP surgery ?
    Nope, not a bad joke, a bad reality.

    “US defence giant Lockheed Martin is among several private companies which have expressed interest in the 10-year deal to run support services for every GP surgery in the country.”

    “Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: “It is an absolute disgrace that NHS England is ready to hand over millions of patients records and critical responsibilities to huge worldwide firms.”

  3. I’ve asked friends if they know about TTIP & none had heard of it…people need to know what’s going on – the NHS & other parts of the public sector need to be protected and be put on an exclusion list.
    Keeping the public uninformed enables ‘political’ deals to be made that would likely be objected to by a majority of the public – but only if they know what’s happening & in their name- it must not be left to the last minute to get this message out, as it may be too late to mobilise enough support to make politicians really listen to and act on the concerns of its citizens.

  4. Thank you for your reply to my email on TTIP, the only one of my six MEPs to do so, so far.

    I am very pleased to realise that there is someone prepared to recognise that any trade agreement with the US and the EU needs to ensure we prevent legislation allowing our government to be sued by invertors, protects public bodies from privatisation, preserves our environment and society and prevents the further erosion of workers rights.

    I do not want to see all future British governments lose the right to make positive decisions that affect our health, our environment or undermine our society.

  5. Great to see an MEP making views public, particularly those views coincide with the majority concerns around TTIP. Thanks go to Mr Corbett for his stand against TTIP.

  6. It is my understanding that one of the negotiators is lord hill(labour) and he flatly refused to remove the NHS from ttip negotiations.

  7. Very pleased that Mr Corbett is talking about this, and replying to constituents. I do think the issue needs a lot more publicity, so that we can all be more informed. It is something that needs public understanding and debate, so that as the negotiations continue, politicians can be challenged and influenced.

  8. Thank you to Richard Corbett and Linda McAvan for their replies to my emails. None of our UKIP MEPs have replied. I am pleased with the points made by RC but still concerned with the secrecy of this deal and the way big business and all except the Green and NHA parties support privatisation. By their actions shall ye know them.

  9. My politics now mainly consist of being against everything Cameron and cronies support. I like toi think I have sound morals; I see none in Tories. The TTIP is just a US con to set their ruthless lawyers on this country.

  10. I know youre on the case Richard, but youre up against an ammoral, corporate attack on democracy here. Lobbyists for corporations in USA write the trade deals now. The US is the world threat to sustainability and freedom of choice; the only safe option is to defeat the TTIP. Anyone who knows about it seems to agree. Sadly so many dont know/care, which is what US policy makers depend on. Do retweet your article occasionally.

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