Rob Marris opposes draft EU-USA trade agreement (TTIP)

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and the USA. It would remove over 90% of the trade barriers between the two economic blocks.

Supporters claim that it would lead to more trade and more jobs, but there are growing concerns about TTIP. Critics like Rob fear that it would make it more difficult for governments to regulate markets in the public interest.

He says: “Whilst my starting position is to favour the removal of trade barriers, I am opposed to unfettered trade. The major concern about TTIP is that it would leave the NHS and other public services open to a carve-up by private American corporations. This would lead to the fragmentation of the National Health Service and its eventual demise. It would cease to be be a national system of free healthcare, run for the public good not for private profit. There are similar risks in other sectors. For example, to the railways: TTIP could prevent a future government re-nationalising the UK’s rail service.”

Labour MP John Healey chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on EU-USA Trade & Investment. In a letter to Mr Healey dated 8 July 2014, the European Commission said: “although health services are within the scope of these agreements and ongoing negotiations, we are confident that the rights of EU member states to manage their health systems according to their various needs can be fully safeguarded.”

That formulation is troubling, due to its uncertainty and to what it does not say. Basically, the Commission seems to be saying that the EU thinks there will not be a problem. It does not say that the proposed wording of the treaty will ensure that there will not be a problem.

The Canada-EU Trade Agreement (“CETA”) is the forerunner of TTIP.  The text of CETA has already been agreed, and EU member states are now consulting on whether to ratify it. The text of CETA can be found here

In CETA, Article 35, Annex II covers reservations by the EU. Those relating to the provision of health care and medical services are not entirely clear. So how can we be confident that the wording provides locked-in protection?

It is not too late to prevent the TTIP being signed. Negotiations are still ongoing. After the wording is finalised, every EU member state must ratify the treaty before it could come into effect. However, time is running out. So Rob Marris is urging people to write to their MP and to their MEP, asking what protections there will be for UK public services, and for the MP or MEP to cite exactly which part of TTIP and of CETA specifies any such protections.