On Thursday Parliament debates a motion demanding parliamentary scrutiny of the controversial EU-US trade deal – the transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) - with growing support from MPs from all the political parties.
The motion, laid down by Geraint Davies Labour MP for Swansea West, confronts the risks to democracy of an EU/US trade deal negotiated behind closed doors with powers for multi-national companies to sue governments over future laws that potentially reduce corporate profits.
Speaking ahead of the debate Geraint Davies said;
“MPs and MEPs must shine a bright light on the proposed EU-US free trade agreement – the so-called transatlantic trade and investment partnership – as it challenges our sovereignty, democracy and public services.
“The rules for Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which empower multinationals to sue democratically elected governments for passing laws which threaten their profits could mean shareholders not voters call the shots.
“We cannot allow TTIP and its ISDS provisions be a Trojan horse to allow corporate lawyers to intimidate and fine democracies using laws decided behind closed doors and inflicted in secret tribunals.
“The motion requires that parliamentarians in the UK and Europe have the right to scrutinise TTIP and ISDS and rejects the plan that it is left to secret negotiations and a take it or leave it approach to our European Parliament with no national parliament agreement needed before implementation.
“In essence, if democratically elected governments want to protect their citizens’ health with measures on smoking, sugar or fat or to protect their welfare rights or to shift the balance between nationalised and privatised utilities, they should retain that right.
“We cannot accept governments being sued in arbitration panels hidden from public view under ISDS rules to protect profits instead of people. That’s why 97% of the 150,000 respondents to the Commission’s consultation on TTIP oppose ISDS.
“We see, for example, tobacco giant Philip Morris, whose cigarettes have killed countless people, suing Uruguay and Australia over anti-smoking laws that require warning labels or plain packaging for cigarettes. We saw Dutch insurer Achmea suing Slovakia because it reversed health privatisation policies. We see US fracking company Lone Pine wanting $250 million compensation from Canada owing to Quebec’s moratorium on fracking, and we see that Argentina has already paid more than $1 billion in compensation to US and French companies for freezing utility rates for energy and water.
“The NHS and social care remain at risk and assurances from negotiators are inadequate for the UK without the level of copper-bottomed protection secured by Finland in their Canadian and US service offers by carving out both public and private health and social care from the deals. In Britain, Conservative privatisation of health and social care allows an entry point for TTIP and, with no case law, there is no guarantee a judge would not allow competition where services are already privately provided.
“This means that with ISDS could expose Britain to potential TTIP compensation of £billions to companies from tax payers if health and social care legislation were reversed and services renationalised.
“If political parties such as the Labour party in the United Kingdom want to freeze energy prices or have a one-off tax on privatised utilities such as the Royal Mail or renationalise the railways or tax fizzy drinks to protect people’s health, it needs to realise that the big corporations are preparing to sue it through investor-state disputes. In other words, these corporations threaten our very democracy as they intimidate and financially punish the will of the people.
“They also threaten the human rights, health and safety at work, social security and fair working conditions in our social charter and the rule of law itself, as investor-state disputes are decided in the shadow of darkness by arbitration panels, not under the shining light of justice in open court.
“It is important that MPs in Europe and Britain engage in this process to ensure a gold standard trade agreement and not stand aside and leave globalisation unregulated. Labour’s 1945 government was committed to fair trade with Attlee’s General Agreement on Trade & Tariffs as a forebear of the WTO. We need to engage responsibly to deliver regulation of trade and to avoid the social and economic Darwinism that is the inevitable result of disengagement.
The motion on Thursday reads “That this House believes that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and any associated investor-state dispute settlement provisions should be subject to scrutiny in the European Parliament and the UK Parliament.”