The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the controversy surrounding it, continues to rumble on. So how far off is a deal, what will it mean for the UK, and what are Labour MEPs doing about it?
TTIP remains one of the issues I receive the most correspondence about. If negotiations are successful, it could lead to a major trade deal between the European Union and United States of America. But UK residents are rightly concerned about the content of such a deal, what it could mean for British workers, consumer rights and public services.
While the trade deal is at the early stages, Labour MEPs, working with colleagues across Europe, decided to produce a report to give guidelines to the negotiators. We voted on this report on 8 July 2015.
Labour MEPs are supportive of trade and how it can create jobs and growth in the UK but voted to make sure that the proposed trade deal would be good for ordinary people as well as big business.
We voted to keep public services out of any future deal, to ensure that workers’ rights and environmental standards go up and not down, and to reject the idea of secret tribunals that allow companies to take governments to court.
Labour MEPs voted for amendments which would mean that public services like the NHS would not be included in any trade deal, and that any future Government could bring services that have previously been privatised back into public ownership. There will also be provisions which would mean that US standards of workers’ rights and environmental standards are lifted to European levels rather than the reverse.
Secret international tribunals known as ISDS, which allow companies to sue Governments, are present in many UK bilateral negotiated investment deals. However such an agreement does not currently exist between the UK and US. Labour MEPs put forward a key amendment that categorically ruled out the inclusion of ISDS in TTIP. Despite our efforts, this amendment did not gain majority support in the European Parliament, so we voted in line with our public pledge to you and voted against ISDS. This meant that as a group Labour MEPs decided to vote against the whole report, even though we agreed with much of its content.
Trade in itself can be a good thing as it creates jobs and growth. This deal between Europe and America has the potential to grow our local economy. Global trade has to be regulated and must not lead to a race to the bottom on standards. Labour MEPs have tabled lots of the amendments which would give protection to ordinary people.
There has been public interest in TTIP in the UK and we have listened carefully to what people have been saying. Labour MEPs have worked hard to make sure that this trade deal can have a positive impact on people’s lives. We have been able to secure notable victories in this process but given the deal isn’t likely to be agreed for a number of years we will keep up the pressure.
Please remember that this vote is only to set the opinion of the European Parliament and it may be many more years before a TTIP agreement emerges. When this happens, MEPs will have to decide whether to ratify or to veto the deal. We will review the deal on its merits, and oppose any TTIP that endangers our public services, our standards or our democratic rights.