TTIP – a winnable battle at European level

Thank goodness the battle on TTIP is being fought at the European level, where many share the view that some things proposed are unacceptable. If we weren’t in the EU, this government would sign us up to a bilateral TTIP with all its worst features

I’ve written several times previously on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and the USA. There are some major problems with previous drafts of this long-mooted trade deal, where some of the ideas on the table are unacceptable.

Three particular concerns are:

  • There’s a potential threat to public services if they are open to competition from private US firms. Although governments in each country would be entitled to list sectors that they want exempted, nobody trusts our Conservative government to list the NHS or other public services.
  • There’s a risk of ‘regulatory devaluation’ — that is, a potential lowering of Europe’s high standards — if we agree mutual recognition of consumer protection rules in a way that causes sub-standard products to appear on the European market.
  • The so-called Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism, or ISDS, would create a quasi-private court for multinational companies to seek compensation from a government where changes to national legislation or policy adversely affects them. We have seen how this works in other trade agreements (for instance, the Australian government was sued by tobacco companies for loss of profit when Australia introduced plain package cigarettes!). We don’t want that here.

Fortunately, there is a growing momentum across Europe to oppose those aspects of the deal.

To be clear, there will be no TTIP unless the European Parliament ratifies the final deal, and Parliament has already made it clear that it won’t approve it unless its concerns on these issues are met. Labour MEPs have been heavily involved in shaping this position. And MEPs have previous form in rejecting problematic deals with the USA, even when under pressure from governments (e.g. the ACTA agreement on intellectual property rights enforcement).

Conclusion of the negotiation is likely to be at least a year away, quite probably longer, and the momentum of this opposition is growing.

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