Dawn Primarolo MP's reply to constituents regarding the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership:
"Thank you for your email in connection with the Parliamentary debate regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that took place last week.
As you will know, TTIP is the free trade agreement that is currently being negotiated between the US and the EU. On 15 January, my Labour colleague, Geraint Davies MP, tabled a Parliamentary motion calling for TTIP to be subject to scrutiny in the European and UK Parliaments. I share the view that this very important agreement needs proper scrutiny at both UK and EU level. As Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons I did not take part in last week’s Parliamentary debate, however, I followed the proceedings with interest and was pleased that MPs agreed the need for further scrutiny of TTIP negotiations. A transcript of the debate is available to view on the Parliamentary website here
The Labour Party supports trade agreements which can bring significant benefits in terms of securing and creating jobs; boosting trade and growth; bringing down costs; and extending choice for consumers. We believe TTIP has the potential to have a positive impact on the economy and job creation in the UK and we therefore support the principles behind these negotiations. However, it is important that the final deal is right for our country. Labour has four main areas of concern regarding TTIP:
(1) Public services: we share the concerns about the impact that TTIP could have on public services encouraging commercialisation, particularly in the NHS. Labour believes that the NHS and all public services need to be more, not less, integrated. That is why we believe that the NHS should be exempt from TTIP. While other countries have sought to exempt areas from the agreement the UK Government has not done so. Please be assured that Labour will continue to press for this exemption.
(2) Investor State Dispute Resolution (ISDS): this is a dispute mechanism commonly used in trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties, allowing 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 Labour’s plans to reverse the privatisation of the NHS as it could result in those 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 (EC) has instigated several welcome changes which have improved the transparency of the agreement, however, it is right that the EC has decided to temporarily suspend negotiations on ISDS until the final stages of the negotiations. Labour will be urging the UK Government to use this opportunity to call for far greater transparency around an exclusion for legislation in the public interest, such as the NHS.
(3) Standards: it is important that the benefits of any treaty filter down to employees and consumers. Treaties can cement and even increase labour, consumer, environmental and safety standards. 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 has been clear that we will only support an agreement that avoids a race to the bottom and promotes decent jobs and growth as well as safeguarding standards.
(4) Non-inclusion of the US states: A significant stumbling block has been raised that the US states are not covered by the agreement. This is important because significant procurement spend in the US is at the state level. This means we could be at a disadvantage as our markets are opened up to a greater extent than those in the US.
Concerns similar to those outlined above have been raised by EU member states. These concerns would need to be reflected to secure agreement and will need to be taken on board by the European Commission.
I hope this is helpful and outlines Labour’s position with regard to TTIP. Please do not hesitate to contact me again if I can be of further help with this or any other matter.
Labour MP for Bristol South"