The aim of TTIP is to reduce the cost of trade between the two largest economies on Earth – America and Europe.
Before an agreement can be reached both governments have to agree the terms. From the European perspective our government may not agree terms unless both house of the legislature confirm the agreement. We’ve pushed for reassurances that TTIP will not compromise safety and environmental standards, nor lead to privatisation of the NHS. Liberal Democrats would not support it if it did.
TTIP is a proposed free trade agreement being negotiated between Europe and America. It aims to simplify European and American trade. Europe and America have different product regulations for food, manufactured goods and vehicles, forcing businesses to test and register their products against both European and American standards in order to sell them in both markets. This harms small businesses which often lack the capital and legal skills to manage multiple sets of regulations. The aim of TTIP is to find ways to make European and American regulations more compatible. The agreement will eliminate most trade taxes between Europe and America.
Concerns have been raised that TTIP could lead to forced privatisation of the NHS and lessen environmental protection and labour rights and that the negotiation process has not been transparent.
NHS privatisation: Liberal Democrats have a clear guarantee from the European governemnt that member states’ rights to provide public services directly are explicitly enshrined in TTIP – even if outsourcing has previously taken place. Services funded by the public purse are protected from liberalisation in all European trade agreements.
Concerns have also been raised that TTIPs’ investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) procedure could lead to tribunals overturning state laws or decisions, or the costs of defending in cases would be prohibitively high.
ISDS protects investors from unfair or discriminatory treatment by a host government. It cannot force governments to open markets or privatise public services. Even if a tribunal ruled against the British government, the reward is financial – usually in the form of compensation. Contrary to claims, corporations will not be able to use investment protection provisions to overturn British laws. The rules cannot force governments to change policies, open markets or privatise public services.
Environmental/food standards: It has been suggested that “alignment” on standards would lower environmental and food safety standards. However, all food imported from America will continue to be required to meet European food standards so specific products like hormone treated beef and chlorine-washed poultry will be prohibited by the existing, robust, European approval systems.
Transparency: There are concerns that the negotiation of TTIP has not been transparent and therefore lacks democratic accountability. In response, Vince Cable has sought a transparency package that goes further than current European moves including:
- Public commitments from the British and European governments that consumer, health and environmental standards will not be lowered.
- A letter from the European administration negotiators to confirm Britain will not be forced to privatise or outsource any healthcare services via TTIP.
- The publishing of the European administration’s negotiating documents to ensure full transparency.