Accused of failing to include, in the Queen’s Speech, any mention of protection for the National Health Service (NHS) from the forthcoming and controversial European/American TTIP trade deal, UK prime minister David Cameron has agreed to an amendment on legislation before the House of Commons.
The move is to fend off the risk of the Queen’s Speech vote being lost as a significant number of his own party had already indicated their intention to rebel because the speech did not include a commitment to the NHS.
The amendment is designed to protect the NHS from the terms of the deal but leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn has warned that there are still many risks to be tackled.
“I would personally go much further because my concerns about TTIP are not just about the effect on public services but also the principle of investor protection that goes within TTIP – planned rules which would in effect almost enfranchise global corporations at the expense of national governments.
“This protection of the NHS is an important step but it’s not the whole step,” he said.
What is the TTIP? It is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. It aims to create a free-trade agreement between the EU member states and the USA. Boosting the economy is seen as particularly important after the economic crisis but this major issue also has long-term policy implications.
Opinions are sharply divided on both sides of the Atlantic where the debate about the pros and cons of the TTIP remains well entrenched. Many groups are campaigning against this agreement, trying to force decision-makers to change it.
So, let’s take a quick look at the arguments on both sides.
The main advantages that the TTIP may bring to the US and EU are that it will:
- Boost the US and EU economies;
- Create new business and trade opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic;
- Provide an opportunity to set common standards and similar regulations that may facilitate the action of companies;
- Remove of some market barriers and promote the free-market;
- As a consequence of the removal of tariffs, reduce consumer prices of many products.
But, unsurprisingly, opponents view things differently. They warn that:
- The new common standards will probably be lower than those previously existing (mainly in Europe);
- The new investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) procedures may infringe principles of sovereignty and, in cases, go against the democratic rules of countries;
- Since companies may sue governments and officials, the latter may become more cautious and bureaucratic to avoid legal troubles;
- The lack of transparency during the process of negotiations reduces accountability and the capacity of citizens to understand its potential impact;
- In some regions, where the industry is less competitive, many jobs may be lost.