Here we are again – banging on about TTIP – i.e. the EU/US trade agreement being pushed through in secrecy. As usual – no apologies.
We’re not alone in thinking this is one of the most important issues facing us. Today 1000s have been out on the streets protesting about TTIP. Perhaps you were among them.
The protesters were voicing their concerns about the threats to our public services, specifically the NHS, from this agreement, about the threats to standards and regulations which it poses. They were expressing their fears about the secrecy of the negotiations, and the undemocratic nature of both the negotiations and the treaty which is likely to result.
We share all these concerns – and have been campaigning to bring TTIP out into the open for over twelve month now. We have recently published a very critical analysis of the impact of Trade agreements of this type.
So where do others stand on this?
Let’s start with Vince Cable – LibDem Business Secretary.
On 22 September he wrote a letter to ALL MPs – extolling the benefits of TTIP, pooh-poohing concerns about its secrecy and infringements of democracy. You can read the letter in full here.
War on Want were so concerned at the letter and its claims that they published a point by point refutation – available here
Here’s the gist of that refutation
1. It is likely that at least 1 million – possibly 2 million – jobs will be lost as a result of it
2. Experience shows that it is big capital not small businesses which benefit from such agreements – the German small business sector has protested against TTIP.
3. The whole point of TTIP is to remove regulations, as ‘barriers’ to trade. Its threat to our own standards, regulation etc is thus very real
4. Cable’s assurances over the NHS are disingenuous – the NHS is specifically NOT exempted – and other ministers have admitted this.
5. Cable’s claims that the infamous ‘Investor State Dispute Settlement’ should not be a cause of concern fly directly in the face of the evidence. The Government’s own impact assessment predicts a flood of these disputes.
6. Cable may pooh pooh the transparency issues, but the TTIP negotiations have been kept secret from MPs and officials. There is a 30 year embargo on the release of documentation!
7. On overall economic benefits ‘Vince Cable claims that “plausible economic studies suggest that a successful agreement between the EU and the US could bring economic benefits of up to £10 billion annually to the UK.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. His own government has already admitted to us in private meetings that these claims are anything but plausible, and that no one takes them seriously. For more detail on the true economic impact of TTIP, and the widespread rejection of the government figures, read our mythbuster for MPs ‘
War on Want’s overall conclusion
‘War on Want rejects the specious arguments put forward by Vince Cable to ‘reassure’ people over TTIP. We encourage all citizens to contact their MPs and to voice their concerns in the strongest possible terms. TTIP represents the greatest single transfer of power to transnational capital that we have seen in a generation. It is up to us to stop it.’
We couldn’t agree more.
Vince Cable’s letter may be very questionable in what it tells us about TTIP.
But it’s very revealing about him and about the LibDems – he’s clearly fully signed up to a treaty which advances big capital at our expense, and to all its secrecy. We thought Liberals were about openness and transparency! The LibDems are fully paid up members of a Coalition which has been moving the NHS and other public services rapidly towards privatization. No wonder Vince supports a treaty which threatens to make that irreversible.
Labour’s stand is very different.
Andy Burnham has already travelled to Brussels to voice Labour’s concerns – and to try to negotiate an exemption for the NHS.
And Labour’s MEPs have been working hard to get both transparency, and wide exemptions. This week they achieved a break through with the publication of the negotiation mandate last Thursday.
As David Martin MEP, Labour MEP for Scotland and Socialists and Democrats Group spokesperson on international trade, said:
“This is not before time and not without significance. The Council has finally lifted the lid on its priorities for TTIP and can now be held to account. We can only get a good, balanced deal if all sides are transparent about their positions.
“Labour MEPs have been clear we want ISDS (the investor-state dispute system) removed from the treaty and EU public services and standards to be protected. It is now time for national governments to explain the contents of the mandate which they unanimously approved.”
Jude Kirton-Darling MEP, Labour MEP for North East England and Labour’s European spokesperson on TTIP, added:
“We have been calling for more transparency in trade negotiations with third countries for years – the decision to make the negotiation mandate publicly available to citizens is long overdue.
“Labour MEPs will continue working to ensure public services including the NHS, social services and education are excluded from trade agreements like TTIP, and we will also work hard to make sure there is more transparency in the process.”
Compare that with Vince Cable’s letter.
Britain Really Will Be Better under Labour