I’ve been contacted many times by people who are quite understandably concerned about the potential impact of TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, currently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States.
People have asked what Labour’s position is on this and I want to make sure that everyone has access to clear information about the potential harm that a badly negotiated TTIP could cause and the potential far-reaching good that a well-negotiated TTIP can have. What matters is what gets agreed in the detail on several key matters. My Labour MEP colleagues work as part of the S&D group of MEPs in the European Parliament – the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. They are working hard to make sure this is what happens and they have had several key successes in doing so. I am in regular and close contact with Clare Moody, Labour MEP for the South West and will continue to post on the progress of TTIP.
The potential good that could come from this is that it could create good jobs with sustainable, fairly shared economic development for both partners, at the same time as setting high standards for workers’ rights and environmental protection for the first time in international trade.
The Commission negotiates on behalf of the EU, but the European Parliament must give its consent before it comes into force. That means that it is MEPs – Members of the European Parliament – who will vote on this. If you want to make your views known, make sure you contact your MEP.
Next 10 June the Parliament will state its recommendations to the Commission so that it has clear guidelines on what it should negotiate.
The potential: A PROGRESSIVE TTIP
TTIP: FAIR-TRADE TRADE DEALS
There must be no room for the destructive deregulation of European rights and standards. Instead, a fair TTIP can help to re-write the rules of international trade, with EU-US common standards becoming global standards. S&D group MEPs are working for this.
WORKERS’ RIGHTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL STANDARDS
Our historic achievements in terms of labour rights and environmental standards will be safeguarded and promoted. TTIP is the best chance we have to encourage the US to converge towards higher global common standards. S&D group MEPs are working for this.
S&D MEPs clearly and regularly say "NO" to rampant privatisation. The EU will open up only those sectors that will benefit from increased competition, development and price reduction. Labour and S&D MEPs have regularly said and will continue to say "NO" to the privatisation of vital public services, such as water and healthcare. They have had successes in this – see here.
The S&D group wants to remove obstacles to the export of quality European products, but US hormone treated meat will not end up on European tables. S&D MEPs are standing clearly against the 'McDonaldisation' of our food. Our regional food diversities are an asset to promote and our quality standards will not be threatened by TTIP. On the contrary, they will serve as the standard for everyone else.
NO ISDS IN TTIP
The ISDS is the Investor State Dispute System which people have contacted me about, concerned that it would give private companies the right to sue governments arbitrarily. I completely understand and share these concerns. The S&D group has clearly said and continues to say "NO" to private arbitration and corporate lawyers making decisions behind closed doors. They have had successes so far – see here. They will continue to vote against its inclusion in TTIP.
The process is currently stalling
Some people have asked me about transparency in the process and finding out what the EU’s position is on various specific aspects. There is plenty of information published on the Europa website about the content, negotiation, proposals, positions and other aspects of the process. You can find out more here.
The negotiations have been going on for two years now and there are some aspects which are stalling – that’s partly because of the pressure that MEPs from the S&D group have put on the negotiations for ensuring the removal of the ISDS and other aspects that there has been widespread public concern regarding.
Conclusion: A chance for fair trade with environmental and workers’ rights at the heart
I support local trading and I also know how much it helps us all to trade with other nations. That’s partly because a connected world with trade as well as cultural and social links is a better world and a safer world – if we trade with each other we are much less likely to want to go to war with each other. That’s been the biggest success story of the European Union and I am keen to spread this success around the world.
It’s also because fair trade and the fair trade movement have helped lift so many people out of poverty across the world. So many of us in Bristol West will always want to buy the Fair Trade approved bananas. We also know we can’t grow bananas in Bristol! And also that the trader in the Dominican Republic who sells her or his bananas to us might also want to buy something we can make here – and they will also be able to invest their money in children’s education or local infrastructure.
Environmental and workers’ rights campaigners the world over don’t just want the best for their own environment or workers; the goal is for everyone to be able to share in them. Having a trade deal negotiated by an EU with a strong socialist democratic voice in it is one of the most exciting ways we have ever had of being able to increase protection globally.
Trade negotiations have too often led the race to the bottom for protection of the environment, for workers’ rights and for fair deals for small and independent producers – wouldn’t it be great for us to be the generation which negotiated the highest possible standards into trade deals?
Be aware that many MEPs and unfortunately the UK’s Tory Government don’t all share our values. Please support the MEPs who are pushing for a progressive outcome and show your concerns to the MEPs who are willing to sacrifice our environmental and work protections for the advancement of private profit.
Please continue to stay in touch about this and also to contact your MEPs to ask their views and push them to stand firm on the things we all care so much about.