My speech on T-TIP motion at Exeter City Council

Thank you, Lord Mayor

I wish to pay tribute to those from Devon Global Centre and elsewhere who gained those 400 signatures for the T-TIP petition presented to Council earlier this evening.

I know from my own experience on a similar 38 Degrees petition how difficult it is to interest the general public in the ramifications of T-TIP.

So I am pleased that we were able to incorporate the major elements of THEIR petition into the notice of motion we are debating today.

I’ve taken an interest in the effects of T-TIP ever since they were brought to my attention by Cllr Wardle over a year ago.

I’ve read articles and briefing on the subject – who even knew that there is such a briefing lodged in the House of Commons Library?

I’ve even followed the BIS committee’s meeting taking evidence on T-TIP earlier today.

Am I for T-TIP? Or against T-TIP?

It’s hard to say as I haven’t seen a text to which to judge the benefits of T-TIP.

But I do have fears.

Nothing I’ve read or heard about T-TIP fills me with confidence.

Most Free Trade Agreements are about reducing and removing tariffs

But that’s not the case with T-TIP.

Tariffs between the EU and the US are already low – they are close to zero, averaging around 3%.

The major exceptions include running shoes and fancy chocolate!

So, unlike classic free-trade arrangements, T-TIP focuses on regulatory and other non-tariff barriers – NBTs.

So my fear is that T-TIP could seriously weaken the safety standards we rely on, and weaken the values of fairness and democracy we cherish.

As it stands, T-TIP seems to be a bi-lateral trade agreement based around reducing the regulatory barriers to trade for big business – affecting things like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations.

In the words of John Hilary, Executive Director of War on Want, “T-TIP is correctly undestood as a negotiation between two competing trading partners, but as an assault on European and US societies by transnational corporation seeking to remove regulatory barriers to their activities on both sides of the Atlantic.” (see John Hilary The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – a charter for deregulationRosa Luxenburg Stiftung, Brussels Office/War on Want

It appears is that this trade deal will simply result in a race to the bottom on labour, social, environmental, and heath & safety standard

I’ve had to use the phrases “seems” and “appears” because most of the process of negotiation has been secretative and undemocratic.

These negotiations are being conducted exclusively by high-level cival servants. There is no political input.

Already there have been 7 rounds of negotiation…the last one concluded on 03 October 2014.

It was only after the conclusion of this round  of negotiations (on  09 Oct 2014) that the Council of the European Union finally declassified the previously restricted negotiating mandate.

It took a year of campaigning to get even this small concession to transparency.

So we now know how they are negotiating

But not on what

So like previous bilateral trade agreements, the terms contained within T-TIP are likely to be contentious.

The main focus of anger against T-TIP has been the threat to our NHS.

T-TIP could put restrictions on the ability of the UK government to control costs (such as the cost of medicines) and to regulate any transnational companies that provide health services.

T-TIP negotiations are based on ‘negative listing’ – a sector such as health needs to be listed as exempt.

As yet that hasn’t happened – although I’m pleased that Clive Efford’s Bill to halt the privatization of our health service recently passed its Second Reading in Parliament by 241 votes to 18.

I don’t want to see the privatization of the NHS – T-TIP might allow this to happen through the back door.

I hope that will form a thick RED line for the EU negotiators.

But it’s not only the NHS that could be affected by T-TIP

Another of those areas of contention is public procurement and the delivery of ALL public services

The Commission’s negotiating mandate includes provisions that T-TIP will increase mutual access to government procurement markets “at all administrative levels…in the fields of public utilities…and ensuring treatment no less favourable than that accorded to locally established suppliers”

Local government procurement would therefore be included.

As a result, the Commons Library research paper notes: There are concerns that [T-TIP]…could constrain the power of national governments to decide how publics services are provided”.

That’s the public services that we, Exeter City Council” deliver for our residents and citizens.

A motion was debated in the European Parliament on 15 May 2013 called for the Commission to explicitly exclude from the negotiating mandate access to public services:

15. Calls on the Council to explicitly exclude from the negotiating mandate market access to public services or any regulatory cooperation threatening the horizontal exceptions for public utilities or directly or indirectly increasing pressure for liberalisation of the public‑service sector;

However, this motion (and many others alongside) was defeated.

The European Commission has claimed that public services will be kept out of T-TIP by virtue of an exclusion of services “supplied in the exercise of governmental authority” as defined in the General Agreement on Trade in Services [GATS], which comes under the World Trade Organisation [WTO].

But the WTO definition of what would qualify under this exemption is narrow – “only on a non-commercial basis and not in competition with other suppliers”

To ensure that all public services are exempt form T-TIP is another RED line for me.

As a member of the Co-operative Party, I believe that as a fundamental principle that trade works best when based on the values and principles of co-operation than competition.

But more than that, I believe we should be talking about FAIR trade not free trade,

That’s why I have serious concerns over the inclusion of an Investor-State Dispute Settlement [ISDS] mechanism within T-TIP.

It is imperative to protect the right of democratically elected governments to legislate for legitimate public policy objective.

ISDS allows for multi-national companies to challenge this right.

Ultimately, ISDS remains a system based on PRIVATE justice rather than democratic jurisdiction.

It would effectively create a two-tier legal system, in which different sets of rules would apply to multinationals and small firms.

SDS is unnecessary as investor protection is already provided for in our mature legal systems.

And ISDS could be used as an instrument to coerce the EU or national governments, politically if not legally.

ISDS WILL challenge the right of governments to govern and leave them free to make the best laws for their citizens

I can see no reasonable justification to include ISDS in the T-TIP agreement.

So yet another RED line for those negotiators.

So there fears contained within T-TIP.

There is a long way to go until the negotiations are concluded.

The Tory led coalition is not interested in the details – even more so since Cameron sacked Ken Clark who, as Minister without Portfolio, was meant to oversee the T-TIP negotiations for the UK and didn’t replace him.

I’ve highlighted some key red lines that cannot be crossed…if they are, its time for a great big black line to be struck across the T-TIP agreement.

I urge all in this chamber to support this motion to ensure that the T-TIP negotiations are brought out into the open.

Storify :: 12. Notice of Motion on TTIP by Councillor Wardle under Standing Order No. 6