I appreciate there is considerable public concern about the TTIP negotiations and, in particular, about the impact this agreement could have on our public services.
I agree that these proposals should receive proper scrutiny at both a UK and EU level and that any final deal must have transparency and accountability at its heart. I was disappointed that the Coalition Government paid little attention to these concerns during the last Parliament and I believe it is important the current Government ensure they are covered in the negotiating process.
There have been sound arguments made, by Joseph Stiglitz and others concerned with economic justice, for the potential for ethically agreed trade deals to increase the reach of environmental and employment protections around the world, provided the negotiations are carried out with these principles in mind. I support this approach, which reflects how the Labour Members of European Parliament (MEPs) are working.
Trade – done fairly and with a sound regulatory framework – is the key way in which we share resources around the world, develop our economy and create sustainable jobs. The Labour Party supports trade that can bring growth to the UK, benefiting consumers, workers and small businesses. It is crucial, however, that trade deals such as TTIP are open and accountable and that they do not water down current labour, consumer, environmental and food safety standards. There is a great deal of information about the TTIP negotiations on the Europa website.
In the European Parliament recently there have been votes to set the opinion of the Parliament on TTIP. Labour MEPs, as part of the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament, have been working hard to push for TTIP to be a fair and sustainable agreement.
Labour MEPs voted for amendments which would mean that public services like the NHS would not be included in any trade deal, that any future Government could bring services that have previously been privatised back into public ownership, and for US standards of workers’ rights and environmental standards to be lifted to European levels rather than the reverse. Labour MEPs also put forward a key amendment that categorically ruled out the inclusion of ISDS – secret international tribunals which allow companies to sue governments.
I should emphasise that there has yet to be a vote on rejecting or adopting TTIP itself. We are still at a relatively early stage in this process. It may be many more years before an agreement emerges from the extensive rounds of negotiations. At this point it will need to be approved by the EU Council of Ministers, the European Parliament and be given assent to by the legislatures of the 28 EU member states and the USA.
There has been significant public interest in TTIP in the UK and the Labour Party has listened carefully to what people have been saying. During the last Parliament the Shadow Frontbench repeatedly raised the issue of TTIP with the Government. Given that the deal isn’t likely to be agreed for a number of years I will be sure to work with my Labour colleagues to keep up the pressure on this issue and keep my constituents informed of any developments. I have blogged regularly about TTIP and will continue to do so; you may like to read my latest blog post here.