Published: 20 July 2015
On Wednesday, July 8, the European Parliament passed a resolution on Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) by 436 votes to 241 with 32 abstentions. The SNP voted against.
The vote in Strasbourg could open up lucrative public sector contracts to American private sector companies.
If national governments get in the way, they could potentially be sued for damaging profits.
Well, bear with me for a few minutes and I’ll try to avoid any Eurospeak.
As Convener of the Scottish Parliament EU and External Affairs Committee, I know how annoying those endless acronyms can be.
The whole secret deal of bringing the muddled TTIP package to fruition clearly confused the Labour Party MEPs since their members voted both for and against the resolution!
The biggest problem with the deal is that it exposes our public services – including the NHS – to back-door privatisation.
I have been working closely with the STUC in creating a form of words that allows our NHS to be removed from any TTIP agreement, and thus would guarantee its existing status.
To date, negotiations about a new agreement with the United States have been carried on largely in secret and no serious efforts have been made to quantify its impact on the Scottish economy.
The UK is the member state, not Scotland, so our power is very limited.
Scotland has just six MEPs of the total UK 73 members.
Although TTIP could impact upon food safety law, environment legislation, banking regulations and indeed the sovereign powers of individual nations, our most immediate concern is with the potential impact upon our NHS.
What we do know is that corporations would be able to sue governments if they make public policy decisions that could harm their future profits.
The regulations, which currently protect our public services from profiteering, would be removed.
If TTIP comes becomes reality, all of Europe’s public health, education and water services would become open to bids from US companies. This prospect, without protection guarantees, means privatisation of the NHS – something the Scottish Government has repeatedly stated cannot be allowed to happen.
In fact, democracy itself is under threat from TTIP since one of the main aims is to introduce Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) allowing companies to sue governments if their policies cause a loss of profits to shareholders.
In effect, that means transnational corporations can dictate the policies of democratically elected governments.
So while TTIP has not yet been adopted, our public services are even more under threat than the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already put them with his £12bn of cuts.
Free trade is a sound idea but commerce and democracy are not mutually exclusive, nor should they ever be traded against each other.
The European Commission will continue to negotiate TTIP but the signs don’t bode well and we will be watching the progress very carefully.