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Halt EU/US Trade Deal Talks

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

GMB Call For Negotiations Between US And EU On A Transatlantic Trade And Investment Partnership Agreement To Be Abandoned

TTIP would lower social and environmental standards and give ‘investment rights’ in public services limiting governments’ abilities to oversee vital services like health and education says GMB.

GMB and other organizations have written to Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business Investment and Skills, calling for negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement (TTIP) between US and EU to be abandoned. See copy of letter in notes to editors below.

Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary, said “This TTIP agreement being negotiated next week in Brussels has been presented as a ‘silver bullet’ for Europe’s economic problems. But there is little evidence to support claims that the deal would boost growth and employment. A report by the European Commission itself argues that TTIP will cause substantial dislocation of EU workers, entrenching inequality between European regions.

This agreement is not about reducing tariff barriers between Europe and the US, which are already low. It is primarily about lowering standards of social and environmental regulation, and negotiating ‘investment rights’ in public services and procurement which would limit governments’ abilities to oversee and regulate vital services like health and education. The proposed investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) would allow corporations additional legal power over government policy.

Due to lack of evidence to support the alleged benefits of TTIP for workers, citizens and consumers, and considerable concerns that it would have a detrimental social and environmental impact, TTIP negotiations should be abandoned.”

End

Contact: Bert Schouwenburg 07974 251 764 or Kathleen Walker Shaw 07841 181 549 or GMB press office 07921 289880

Notes to editors

Copy of letter Vince Cable dated 11th March 2014.

Dear Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills

We write to express our serious concerns about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement (TTIP) currently being negotiated between the European Union and United States. We fear that this agreement, if passed, will prioritise investor interests over the government’s ability to protect the interests of people and our environment, and will undermine important elements of our democratic framework.

Although TTIP has been presented as a ‘silver bullet’ for Europe’s economic problems, there has been much criticism of the growth and employment figures provided by the European Commission. For instance, Ferdi De Ville (University of Ghent) and Gabriel Siles-Brügge (University of Manchester) have argued that TTIP is unlikely to significantly boost growth. Meanwhile a report by the European Commission argues that there will be prolonged and substantial dislocation of EU workers as a direct result of TTIP which will simply entrench European inequality between regions. Furthermore, the European Commission concedes there are “legitimate concerns” that those workers who lose their jobs as a result of TTIP will not find other employment.

We know that TTIP is not primarily concerned with already low tariff barriers between the European and US markets. The European Commission has been clear that the biggest ‘trade barriers’ under discussion are not tariffs at all, but “for example, different safety or environmental standards.” So it seems clear to us that this agreement is primarily about commercial, social and environmental regulation and investor protection in a wide range of economic sectors, including public services. We are concerned in particular that:

The proposed investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) would allow corporations additional legal power over government policy. Research commissioned by your own government has stated such a mechanism would have no benefit for the UK.

Negotiations on investment rights in public services and procurement would limit a future government’s ability to oversee and regulate vital services like health and education.

Harmonisation talks – the very centre of the negotiation – are being used to lower standards on a range of areas from environmental protection to health and safety. This has been pushed by corporate lobbyists. For instance, the European Services representative told a meeting on EU investment policy in 2011: “Industry will oppose any deal in which investment protection is traded off against public policy objectives, including human and labour rights.”

Trade unions, NGOs, faith groups and consumer protection watchdogs are expressing their concern about TTIP across Europe and the United States. We are witnessing growing opposition to an agreement being signed. 

Without evidence to support the benefits of TTIP for workers, citizens and consumers in the UK, and with considerable concerns about the detrimental social and environmental impact of TTIP, we are calling for a halt to TTIP negotiations. While negotiations are on-going, we call on you to take immediate actions within the UK’s competency:

·    organise a public consultation on the full TTIP treaty;

·    insist that the precautionary principle is upheld;

·    ensure that health, education, water,  sanitation and other public services are protected from further liberalisation; and

·    commit DFID to undertaking a comprehensive analysis of the impact of the deal on the multilateral system and on developing countries.

Yours sincerely,

Dave Prentis, UNISON

Paul Kenny, GMB

Sally Hunt, University and College Union

Christine Blower, National Union of Teachers

Andy Atkins, Friends of the Earth

Nick Dearden, World Development Movement

John Hilary, War on Want

Jim Cranshaw, People and Planet

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