Lots of you have contacted me about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
I have four real worries about TTIP.
Public services: I share your deep concern about the impact that TTIP could have on public services by encouraging commercialisation, particularly in the NHS. Labour believes that the NHS must be exempt from the agreement. Other countries have actively sought to exempt areas, but the EU Commission and the Conservative government have had to be pushed into recognising that there is a potential problem for the NHS and public services from TTIP.
Investor State Dispute Resolution (ISDS): this is a dispute mechanism, commonly 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 they could result in 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 which Labour welcomes. However, it is right that the European Commission has decided to temporarily suspend negotiations on ISDS until the final stages of the negotiations. Labour will be urging the Government to use this opportunity to call for far greater transparency around an exclusion for legislation in the public interest, like the NHS.
Standards: the benefits of any treaty must be felt by employees and consumers. 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 and would safeguard standards.
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 means 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 State level.
A number of worries similar to our own have been raised by member states and these would need to be taken on board by the EU Commission in order to secure the prospect of any agreement.
More generally, trade agreements can bring benefits through boosting trade and growth, securing and creating jobs, and bringing down costs and extending choice for consumers. TTIP - as an agreement between the US, the world’s largest economy, and the largest single market, the EU - has the potential to bring significant benefits. Europe and the United States are the UK’s 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. More and better trade is good for the UK, and reducing barriers could for example help, for example, our car industry export more vehicles to the US where there are regulations that currently inhibit this.