I sadly have to put a disclaimer that this is NOT all my own work. The draft, which I’ve amended and hope have made slightly clearer was provided through a group I attend. I wish it was all mine, but I’m not a plagiarist and there is a bit more detail here than I would have managed to supply from my own research.
I am extremely concerned about the effects of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership currently being negotiated between the US and European Commission.
As you will be aware, the TTIP is currently being negotiated between the United States and the European Union, with a view to opening up markets for services, investment and public procurement.
There are growing concerns about what this trade agreement will mean, not least that regulatory harmonisation will weaken existing standards and regulations currently aimed at protecting workers and consumers in the EU.
There are also widespread concerns about the grave implications of the mechanism known as the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). ISDS allows any foreign company operating in this country to make a claim against the UK government for loss of future profits resulting from any action by the government, such as new legislation. Significantly, an unaccountable tribunal composed of three corporate lawyers would consider such claims and their decisions would override national laws.
Proponents of this Agreement argue that the ISDS mechanism is not new and not threatening. It was, however, set up as a protection for companies operating in countries with a history of political instability where the rule of law could not be guaranteed. This does not apply to either the US or the EU. Therefore, in this circumstance, this mechanism can only be interpreted as a device for subverting our national and supranational legislation.
If agreed, the TTIP will have devastating effects across a wide range of areas such as public procurement, food, pharmaceuticals, financial services and intellectual property.
In this letter, drawing largely on evidence to the House of Lords European Sub-Committee on External Affairs, I highlight some of the implications of the Agreement for health, healthcare and the NHS, in order to give some sense of the damage that the TTIP will wreak on this sector, as an example.
• The TTIP will have a detrimental impact on the domestic regulation of health services, pharmaceutical policies, standard setting, health promotion and health protection.
Public health measures such as on food labelling, on pesticides and chemicals, or other potentially toxic or unhealthy products may be restricted, especially as the TTIP favours a narrow risk assessment approach, in contrast to the broader precautionary principle used by the EU.
• Harmonisation will limit the government’s ability to regulate professional standards and qualifications required for health care workers, with worrying implications for the quality of patient care.
• Because the USA has not implemented some of the most fundamental labour rights set out by the ILO, such as the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, regulatory harmonisation brought about by TTIP will mean a ‘levelling down’ to the labour standards found in the USA, rather than levelling up to those required in the EU. Health workers, already facing redundancy and down-banding, will be further disempowered in their struggle for fair pay and conditions of work.
• The Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) would allow any foreign company operating in the UK health market to make a claim against the UK government for millions of pounds where the introduction of legitimate public health regulation, health protection and health promotion policy measures might affect these companies’ future investment or profit opportunities.
• ISDS would make it impossible for a Clinical Commissioning Group to cancel a contract with a private provider even when this provider was failing in its standard of patient care, for fear of being sued for loss of potential earnings.
• In addition to giving corporations greater powers than national governments, ISDS would make it virtually impossible for the UK government to reverse the Health and Social Care Act (2012) and marketisation of the NHS, even if this proves to be a disaster.
The British Medical Association has recently stated, following information from Business Minister Lord Green, that it believes that the NHS will be exempt from the TTIP. However, there is no confirmation of this stance from the government. Rather, David Cameron replied to a Parliamentary question in June 2013 about whether the NHS will be exempt by saying “I am not aware of a specific exemption for any particular area, but I think that the health service would be treated in the same way in relation to EU-US negotiations as it is in relation to EU rules”.
Similarly, the chairman of the Liberalisation of Trade in Services Committee (LOTIS) and the financial services pressure group TheCityUK reported that no issue was identified as a candidate for exclusion from the negotiations during the second round of TTIP negotiations in November 2013.
Finally the Lisbon Treaty does not, as some argue, provide protection for the NHS. I am not calling for the NHS to be excluded from the TTIP. I believe it is the entire agreement that is ill judged and that we should not be party to it. (Excluding the NHS should be the action of last resort if this is not possible.)
The TTIP gives rights to transnational corporations at the same time as reducing member states’ rights to regulate them: this trade agreement, especially if it includes ISDS, represents an unprecedented threat to democracy. The argument put forward for the TTIP is that it will create growth and jobs, but the evidence for this is poor. The European Commission’s own impact assessment admits that a 0.5% increase in growth would be optimistic, and independent research suggests that a meagre 0.01% increase in the growth rate over 10 years is more likely.
The record on job creation in previous trade agreements is not encouraging: the North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico led to a net loss of almost a million jobs in the US. The real benefits of the TTIP will be for multinational corporations, through the removal of the social and environmental regulations that ‘interfere’ with profit.
I believe that for each and every politician this Agreement represents a demonstration of where their loyalty lies: to the people who elected them or to the corporate world.
As my representative, or as a candidate for forthcoming elections, in the European Parliament/House of Commons/European Parliament’s International Trade Commission/ local government, I am asking you to take any steps within your power to publicise the attack on democracy and on our sovereignty and to take any action individual or collective to impede its progress.
I look forward to hearing from you.