Original query to MP:
I urge you to support the ‘TTIP amendment’ which I understand is being tabled to the Queen’s Speech. I thoroughly disagree with the Government’s support of the EU-US deal (known as TTIP), and this is one of the very few opportunities which parliament will have to formally challenge this trade deal.
TTIP is a real threat to our public services, our food and environmental standards, and our democratic system. Although I oppose TTIP entirely, this amendment would at least ensure some protection to the NHS. And it sends a powerful message to the government on TTIP as a whole.
I would be grateful if you would respond to me to tell me how you plan to vote.
From: "MOON, Madeleine" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Please support the ‘TTIP amendment’
Date: 1 June 2016 12:42:23 BST
Dear Ms Minhinnick,
Thank you for your letter. The central purpose of TTIP is to remove trade barriers between the EU and the US. It is regarded by proponents, along with the UK’s continued membership of the EU and NATO and the retention of an independent nuclear deterrent, as an essential component of the UK’s future defence and economic security. It has been suggested that the rejection of TTIP would fragment European-US relations and would thereby assist the strategic objectives of the Putin regime in Russia. It has even been suggested by defence analysts that the Russian Government has provided assistance to organisations protesting against TTIP.
Nevertheless, many fear that the deal will have unintended consequences and could open up our public services, particularly the NHS, to acquisitions by US companies. As you know, Michael Bowsher QC, the former chair of the EU law committee of the Bar, has recommended that the UK Government push for a provision excluding the NHS from TTIP. In a recent letter to Lord Livingston, the European Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, sought to address and allay these concerns: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/398608/Letter_to_Lord_Livingston_from_Cecilia_Malmstr_m_NHS_TTIP.pdf. She states that under the deal:
Member States do not have to open public health services to competition from private providers, nor do they have to outsource services to private providers; Member States are free to change their policies and bring back outsourced services back into the public sector whenever they choose to do so, in a manner respecting property rights (which in any event are protected under UK law); It makes no difference whether a Member State already allows some services to be outsourced to private providers, or not.
Until government provides details of how the ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS) will work in TTIP, however, the deal’s critics will remain unconvinced. Under this mechanism private investors will potentially have the right to sue the UK government for introducing any regulation that could potentially damage the corporation’s investment or future profits. Supporters of the deal, such as the Labour MP John Spellar, doubt the likelihood an ISDS being used to challenge government policy or to open up public services to private investment. They point to the fact that under pre-existing trade deals, the government has only been subject to an ISDS on two occasions. During a recent debate, Helen Goodman MP responded to this point by suggesting that her concerns are ‘not about the number of court cases taken; it is about ministerial action being inhibited for fear of those court cases’. By exposing the government to the threat of lawsuits by litigious US companies, this provision could prevent or dissuade the government from responsibly regulating the UK economy. It was for this reason that MPs on the BIS Commons Select Committee recently criticised the government’s uncritical support for TTIP: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/mar/25/mps-denounce-government-ttip-plans.
Critics who argue that TTIP will increase the power of international corporations to circumvent UK government regulations are worried about its consequences for climate change and the green energy industry. One of the key objectives of European negotiators is to have the US ban on oil exports repealed. As well as increasing the transatlantic trade in oil, a repeal would also facilitate the export of Canadian-mined sand and tar to the EU. The greenhouse gasses emitted in the extraction of these substances is thought to be 23 percent high than the average fuels used in the EU. The import of cheap oil and natural gas extracted through ‘fracking’ could also undermine the production of renewable energies in the EU and UK.
There have also been concerns about the secretive manner in which the deal has been negotiated. The recent attempts of the American car industry to cover-up the safety standards report so as not to deter European policy-makers from signing up to TTIP, have undermined the credibility of the deal. The automotive industry will profit more than any other from TTIP and critics are concerned that these predatory business practices may become established in the UK.
TTIP has the potential to benefit the UK economy. Britain is a trading nation and balanced trade deals have a positive impact on jobs and growth. The government and EU trade negotiators must therefore respond constructively to critics of TTIP and arrive at a deal that benefits workers, consumers and public-service users.
I was unable to vote on the TTIP Amendment in the Queen's Speech. Because I was 'paired' with a Tory MP who had suddenly fallen very ill, my absence did not affect the outcome of the vote.