Zara Munro is one of Women for Independence's youngest activists. As part of her education, she has studied TTIP and produced the following report, which is a very useful guide to the evidence on this controversial treaty.
An Introduction to TTIP
TTIP is an abbreviation for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. It is a proposed trade agreement between the EU and the USA and the largest ever to be negotiated. It aims to make trade easier between the EU and the USA by reducing standards and regulations. Labour rights, environmental rules, food safety, digital privacy, and banking standards could all possibly be at risk from TTIP. TTIP is expected to be signed off and in progress by the end of 2015 at the earliest. The negotiators will sign it then the 28 EU governments will have a vote but they can only accept or reject TTIP, they cannot amend it in any way. Although the public are just finding out about it the negotiations have been ongoing since July 2013. This week sees the 9th round of negotiations.
How would It affect the Legal System?
TTIP contains Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) which is a set of rules about the legal system and corporations. With these rules in place if the government were to do something to impact negatively on a corporations profits then the corporations could sue them for it. This has been demonstrated across the world with similar agreements in Australia, Canada and a number of other countries. The most well-known case is the tobacco company Phillip Morris suing the Australian and Uruguay governments for introducing plain cigarette and tobacco packaging. The trials are usually private.
ISDS negotiations were suspended in January 2014. A public consultation was carried out by the European Commission from March to July 2014 with around 150,000 replies. A majority of 88% have said they do not want ISDS included in TTIP.
The current conditions for ISDS are that it:
•Provides the highest possible level of legal protection and certainty for investors from the EU and the USA
•Promotes European standards of safety
•Gives both EU and USA investors equal opportunities
•Builds on experiences of previous trade agreements with third countries
•Ensures that the EU can make rules on public policy objectives such as social, environmental, security, stability of the financial system, public health and safety
•Supports and protects the different EU cultures.
How would it affect the NHS?
The NHS is at risk of privatisation anyway, as we have seen during the current government. However at the moment the NHS is included in TTIP which means it is at an even greater risk of privatisation. Parts of the NHS in England are already privatised which would open them up further to other EU and USA companies. The rights of these companies as foreign investors would soon become more important than the citizens health issues and the NHS would continue to deteriorate.
Risks to NHS Staff
The EU has higher labour rights than the USA. As TTIP would lower standards it is more likely for the EU to reduce Labour rights than it is that the USA will increase their Labour rights.
TTIP may include some changes to how patents are applied to medicines. Some of these possible changes are:
◾reducing the standards for what counts as a new invention by allowing a company to take a medicine already available and make some minor changes to its content and/or
doses and obtaining a new patent, so delaying the appearance of a cheaper version of a similar drug on the market
◾Making patents last longer by including the time it takes to obtain a patent in the amount of time covered in the patent
◾introducing ‘data exclusivity’ that would keep the clinical data used to develop a drug locked up and hidden away for a specific amount of time, preventing competition from other companies
◾Creating new rules that would make it more difficult to challenge patent applications where these seem insensible.
As well as changes to patents for new medicines, the assessment of them could also be changed. Just now the EUs medicines are assessed by the National Centre for Health Clinical Excellence (NICE). However it is thought that the impact of these assessments would be weakened if standards are lowered to match the USA because TTIPs main aim is to reduce trade barriers, not protect public health.
Government measures and suing the government
If the government were to introduce legislation about qualification or quantity requirements then the companies running the NHS could sue them. Private NHS contacts would be difficult to cancel because they last so long (60-100 years) and because it would have a negative impact on profits allowing the companies to sue the government under TTIPs set of ISDS rules.
What else would TTIP affect and how?
One of the main risks from TTIP are job losses even though more jobs have been promised. We are lead to believe that TTIP will stimulate economic growth and create a huge amount of new jobs. These predictions are based on previous trade agreement predictions such as NAFTA.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect in 1994. It is a trade deal between the USA, Canada and Mexico. The Peterson Institute for International Economics predicted NAFTA would create 170,000 jobs a year. Twenty years on and its lost jobs, not made them. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost because of NAFTA. Job losses are estimated to be near a million. NAFTA also caused huge deficit and poverty rises.
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)
Yesterday’s report from Brussels shows that SMEs are currently benefiting from transatlantic trade. In 2012 150,000 SMEs exported to the USA and they accounted for 28% of all EU exports there. SMEs dealing in food, beverages & agriculture; clothing, textiles & leather; as well as chemicals had a higher average share of EU experts. The report also includes the findings of a survey from last year. The survey asked SMEs what was difficult about exporting to the USA.
Here are some of the replies:
- Following technical rules and regulations for all goods, which is the most commonly raised issue
- Finding information about what regulation applies to their product. Almost a third of the responding SMEs were unable to identify the original source of the regulatory issue they face
- Being legally banned from the market
- Agreement with customs rules, which can become very costly and act as trade barriers
- Differences in rules with the USA.
The regulatory part of TTIP is on the agenda for the negotiations taking place this week.
When releasing the report yesterday (20/4/15) Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Trade said: "Small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of the European economy. These companies will channel the benefits of TTIP back to their local communities. That's why the EU and the US are working to deliver an ambitious agreement that meets their concerns. This report helps us do that, by pointing out the concrete obstacles and the problems that we have to solve. This is one of the issues to be discussed when our negotiators are meeting this week.
The TTIP Positions of some UK Parties
I will provide the opinions on TTIP of The Conservatives, Labour, The Liberal Democrats, The Green Party, SNP, Plaid Cymru and UKIP. This excludes Northern Ireland since their parties are not currently recognised as main or influential parties at Westminster.
The Tories support TTIP and continually reinforce their view that it won’t affect the NHS. David Cameron said at the G20 summit last year that “This is good for Britain – good for growth and British families.” They claim that TTIP would bring an extra £10 billion to the UK each year – £400 for every household and by promoting trade they say they can secure a better future for Britain. Tory MEPs have said they will be monitoring the progress of negotiations extremely closely over the coming months.
Labour support TTIP as a whole but oppose a lot of things in it. Environmental, health and employment legislation are key issues for them which they want protected. They oppose ISDS and they are conscious the Tories would use TTIP as a back door to privatising the NHS which is a red line for Labour.
As stated in their 2015 manifesto The Lib Dems do support TTIP but they want the UK to say how the NHS is run. They agree with The Tories that TTIP could bring up to £10 billion a year to the British economy.
The Greens oppose TTIP, you can see this on page 74 of their 2015 manifesto. Also when replying to 38 degrees ahead of last year’s EU elections on a question about TTIP they said the Greens will oppose any parts of any trade deals which could lessen workers, consumers and citizens’ rights or impact the environment negatively. They believe the NHS should be completely left out of any trade talks. The Greens also highlighted the fact that they have always been a key party in the fight against TTIP.
The SNP are gradually shifting from supporting TTIP to opposing it completely. They want the NHS excluded and signed Unite's pledge in February for David Cameron to use his veto on TTIP if the NHS is included. Some SNP candidates for this year’s Westminster election oppose TTIP. Chris Stephens, standing in Glasgow South is one of them. Speaking at the SNPs Spring conference last month he said TTIP is a “dangerous attack on democracy.”
Plaid Cymru oppose TTIP. They think that ISDS is unsuitable. Another reason they oppose it is that TTIP opens up public services and they wish to see the NHS protected. Leanne Wood, the party leader said in the Welsh Assembly in December that “A strong and productive relationship already exists between the EU and US in terms of trade.
“However the TTIP agreement as proposed will give corporations unprecedented power over public services and would threaten democratic decisions in the pursuit of company profit.
“This is unacceptable and that’s why Plaid Cymru opposes it, and we are calling on the Welsh Government to join us.
“Plaid Cymru wants to see a democratic economy which is driven by the needs of the people it serves. The TTIP agreement threatens that principle and must be rejected.”
UKIP have outlined their position on TTIP in their 2015 manifesto. They have gave a very brief summary of TTIP and said they want the NHS excluded from it and are committed to doing this. Not much else is mentioned about their position on TTIP, they have just criticised other parties for believing in EU membership while opposing TTIP.
In conclusion I believe that TTIP poses far too many risks to a range of different things. The main risks are those posed to the NHS and those caused by ISDS that would be imposed as a result of TTIP. The UK political parties are very divided on the issue but I would like to see more parties oppose it.