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TUC No To EU/US Trade Deal

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Institute Of Director’s Aim For EU/US Trade Agreement Is Lower Protection For Workers And Consumers

IOD step up call for cutting standards for consumer safety, labour rights, food hygiene, animal welfare and control of hazardous chemicals to the lowest common denominator says GMB at TUC Congress.

GMB commented on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as the TUC Congress in Liverpool overwhelmingly supported a motion to oppose TTIP. See notes to editors 1 for copy of the motion.

Bert Schouwenburg, GMB International Officer at TUC Congress, said, “Simon Walker, Director General of The Institute of Directors (IOD), set out clearly what employers and business want from the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently being negotiated between the EU and the US. See notes to editors 2 below

2 copy of article in City AM 4th September.

Last week Mr Walker said that the proposed deal provides business with an opportunity to achieve regulatory convergence and coherence between US and EU to sweep away any vestiges of a Social Europe. This would lead to reducing hard-fought for standards of consumer safety, labour rights, food hygiene, animal welfare and control of hazardous chemicals to the lowest common denominator.

Mr Walker criticises Euro-sceptic Tory MPs for not backing the treaty because it emanates from Brussels. He says the loss of sovereignty involved in this more beneficial climate for business by lowering standards is a trade off these Tories should welcome.

Mr Walker’s candid assessment of what TTIP is really about represents a welcome antidote to the rubbish pedalled by Vince Cable and others that the treaty is being negotiated for our benefit and that European citizens are all going to be better off as a result.

Mr Walker readily admits that this has less to do with trade and more to do with removing regulatory barriers preventing big business making even more money than it does now, and it is clear that he does not care a jot about the sovereignty of the EU, still less that of the UK. In Mr Walker’s world, the corporations rule and governments do their bidding.

Mr Walker claimed that it would be particularly beneficial for small and médium employers and should not be seen as a “plaything of the multinationals.” This attempt to legitimise TTIP by claiming that it will help small and medium firms will not wash. In Austria, the SPAR group of small shops have put paid advertisements in newspapers alerting people to the damage it would do to their businesses, a worry that has found echoes across Europe.

Mr Walker’s aim of “regulatory convergence” means scrapping accepted standards on public health, and is part of a concerted assault on both European and member state legislation. The cat is now properly out of the bag.”

End

Contact: Bert Schouwenburg 07974 251 823 or Kathleen Walker Shaw on 07841 181 549 of GMB press office 07974 251 823 or 07921 289880

Notes to editors

TUC motion on Transatlanic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Motions 6 and amendments, 7, 8 and amendment, and 9

Congress is extremely concerned about the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade treaty, a wide-ranging trade deal giving unprecedented power and influence to transnational corporations that would become the benchmark for all future trade agreements, currently being negotiated between the EU and the USA and recognises the threat posed. While there may be economic benefits in reducing trade tariffs and reviewing regulation for certain industrial sectors, Congress believes that the primary purpose of TTIP is to extend corporate investor rights.

A key element of the TTIP is the introduction of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause, which would act as a tribunal/arbitration. The ISDS could see millions of pounds paid out to those big private sector corporations should NHS services be brought back into the public sector in the future.

As with all trade agreements, TTIP is being negotiated mainly in secret. The current negotiations lack transparency and proper democratic oversight.

TTIP would:

a)         allow corporations to sue sovereign states, elected governments and other authorities legislating in the public interest where this curtails their ability to maximise their profits, by recourse to an Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism;

b)         threaten the future of our NHS and other key public services;

c)         risk job losses, despite unsubstantiated claims to the contrary;

d)         potentially undermine labour standards, pay, conditions and trade union rights as the US refuses to ratify core ILO conventions and operates anti-union “right to work” policies in half of its states;

e)         reverse years of European progress on environmental standards, food safety and control of dangerous chemicals, given US refusal to accept stricter EU regulation of substances long banned in the EU; and

f)          deprive EU member states of billions of pounds in lost tariff revenue.

Key concerns are:

i)          the threat to our National Health Service and sections of the public sector that may be opened up to the private sector leaving a future Labour government with no legal right to take back into public ownership (including previously publicly owned transport and utilities) and that could lead to a far more widespread fragmentation of NHS services, putting them into the hands of big private sector corporations;

ii)         the quasi-judicial process on the Investor-State Dispute Settlement under which multinational corporations may sue, in secret courts, nation states whose laws or actions are deemed incompatible with free trade;

iii)        opening up European markets to US Frankenstein foods – hormone enriched beef, chlorinated poultry and genetically modified cereals and salmon;

iv)        the mutual recognition of regulatory standards which will lead to a race to the bottom and the creation of a Transatlantic Regulatory Council which will give privileged access to multinational corporations; and

v)         the impact on creators’ intellectual property rights.

Congress notes that free trade agreements rarely, if ever, benefit working people and are pushed by corporations who use them as a means to maximise profits and further their own interests.

The idea of transatlantic trade may well be supported by those that would profit from it, but for our health services based on values, principles and sustainability it could be a financial disaster, adding another nail in the NHS coffin. The TUC and a number of other organisations have been campaigning to exempt the NHS from the negotiations and Congress now calls on the General Council to keep the pressure on and raise the profile of the calamitous affects the TTIP could have on the NHS.

Congress remains unconvinced by official claims of job creation arising out of TTIP, and considers that the dangers to public services, workers’ rights and environmental standards outweigh any potential benefits. Congress remains unconvinced about the likelihood of a binding labour rights chapter based on ILO Core Conventions.

Congress has similar concerns over current negotiations for the proposed Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) and the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA).

Congress believes that on the current path we will be presented with a fait accompli in the form of an inadequate, unacceptable agreement that we have had no chance of influencing or amending and where time will make it difficult to mobilise opposition.

Congress resolves that the TUC should:

1)         oppose Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms and a ratchet clause;

2)         call for the exclusion of all public services, including education and health, public procurement, public utilities and public transport (whether in public or private ownership) from the negotiations;

3)         demand no levelling down in relation to consumer, worker or environmental protection;

4)         insist on genuine consultation with civil society organisations, including trade unions;

5)         work with like-minded organisations, including the ETUC, in opposing all detrimental aspects of TTIP and in campaigning for alternative EU trade and investment policies; and

6)         welcome the decision of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on Trade to exclude the audio-visual sector from the initial TTIP agenda, and lobby the UK government to oppose its future inclusion, in order to preserve the European Cultural Exception and the unique national nature of arts and entertainment activity within Europe.

Congress therefore resolves that the trade union movement should now call for the TTIP negotiations to be halted and adopt a clear position of outright opposition to TTIP, and the other trade agreements currently being negotiated, whilst continuing to monitor progress and press for improvements to promote decent jobs and growth and safeguard labour, consumer, environmental and health and safety standards through lobbying, campaigning and negotiating, in alliance with the ETUC and AFLCIO.

Congress agrees that all pending and future trade agreements entered into by the EU should be subject to a vigorous and transparent regime of scrutiny and consultation, ensuring that they are of benefit and acceptable to the millions of people affected by their content, in all countries covered by the agreement.

2 copy of article in City AM 4th September

A screaming silence from free marketeers is jeopardising the vital EU-US trade deal, writes Simon Walker

The landmark free trade agreement currently being negotiated by the EU and the US has set off all kinds of noise this week, particularly after unions accused the government of failing to secure an explicit – and unnecessary – exemption for the NHS. But from the coverage in the UK, you could be forgiven for thinking there are no gains to be made. This could hardly be further from the truth.

The trade and investment agreement known as TTIP could create the biggest single market in the world, but increasingly the only attention paid to it ranges from apathy to outright opposition. The EU can ill-afford to drop the baton in its badly-needed quest for competitiveness, yet its most obvious tool for deployment in the area of free trade is coming under attack. The rise of protectionism across Europe is gathering pace, but TTIP’s most unlikely foe could be the indifference of free marketeers here in the UK.

Britain has a proud tradition as an open, liberal economy, whose stamp on the EU has kept more insular elements of the club at bay. Business has reaped benefits from being part of a bloc that has a commitment to free trade at its heart. While the rise of Jacques Delors’s “social Europe” and the profligacy of interventionist employment law has added a burdensome dimension to EU membership, Brussels’s trading ambitions have remained resolute. In a recent survey, trade was one of the only areas of competence which IoD members believed the EU best-placed to manage.

So the start of TTIP negotiations should have been seen as a triumph of UK influence in Brussels. Together, the US and the EU account for nearly half of world GDP, with a wealth of still-untapped potential for SMEs in particular. Beyond the scope it provides for tariff elimination, the agreement offers opportunities for regulatory convergence and coherence that could set global standards in trade and a host of commercial sectors. The Anglo-Saxon economic model shared by the UK and US has surely helped lay the foundations for such a deal. Yet the enthusiasm with which free market UK politicians should be greeting it is tempered by an elephant in the room: it’s Brussels doing the negotiating.

The sad truth is that, for a number of Conservatives, Euroscepticism seems to matter infinitely more than free trade. There is a deafening silence from those who should be shouting the loudest about TTIP, with concern at being seen to endorse the EU chief among their priorities. Pro-enterprise sentiment has been eclipsed by anti-European fervour, to the detriment of UK businesses.

Some Eurosceptics on the right have even sought to undermine the TTIP agenda by playing to the populist left in depicting it as the plaything of multinationals. Yet it is SMEs who stand to gain the most from seeing this agreement go through. Eliminating regulatory duplication is the focal point of negotiations, as this is one of the biggest barriers to exporting for smaller enterprises. IoD members routinely list overseas regulation as among the principle reasons for not undertaking greater export activity.

And in the absence of Britain’s normally vocal free trade majority, unions and environmental groups have filled the void, and the cacophony of scaremongering whipped up around TTIP grows louder by the day. The reactionary voices of anti-globalisation threaten to gut the agreement of its most important aim of regulatory convergence, or to derail it altogether. Many of these elements have just been elected in droves to the European Parliament, where it is being mooted that TTIP could become the new ACTA – an international agreement on intellectual property rights that was vetoed by MEPs, despite having been signed by most EU governments.

Opposition is loudest on the continent, and reports that Germany is mulling a rejection of the pending EU-Canada free trade deal show this threat is not without teeth. The liberal voice of British pragmatism is desperately needed. But as this would involve supporting a European Commission tasked with steering the trade deal through, those who would normally extol free trade’s virtues are either silent or dismissive, preferring to concentrate on what kind of agreement could be struck if the UK were negotiating alone. This is a red herring, and a distracting one at that.

Perhaps in theory a transatlantic trade deal could be done faster between Britain and the US, but the TTIP is the only one currently on offer, and there is a discernible trade fatigue setting in in Washington. Its first priority is the far more contentious TPP agreement being pursued with the Pacific Rim countries. A separate post-Brexit deal is likely to be low on the US’s priority list.

A realistic “take it while you can get it” approach doesn’t seem to endear itself to UK Eurosceptics, but politics and business often operate in different spaces, particularly over Europe. It is a luxury afforded to politicians to talk of what could change in the future, one that firms looking to expand now simply do not possess. The practical opportunity that TTIP offers should not be put at risk by conscious indifference just because the EU is lead actor. The great EU debate can continue apace. But for as long as the UK remains a member, we should be determined to maximise whatever benefits there still are to be won.

 

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