TTIP Update from Alyn Smith MEP: May 2015

Welcome to my latest update on TTIP, the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

TTIP continues to attract attention and remain controversial, but I think we are, with your help, starting to put transparency into the system so that TTIP's deficiencies are being shown up. Below I have some useful news from our friends in the US which show that concerns about what impact TTIP will have are not just European.

As one of Scotland’s MEPs who will have a vote on the final text I have continued to closely follow events. I will shortly be returning to the document reading room in the European Parliament where more documents have been made available exclusively to MEPs. It is important that we continue to keep a close eye on events as things are moving fast. The need for more transparency is clear, others should be able to see these documents if they wish.

Across the Atlantic there have been dramatic developments over the past few days. President Obama has been attempting to secure Trade Promotion Authority or “fast track” negotiating rights from Congress that would have left him free to negotiate TTIP without further consultation on individual points. On Tuesday 45 senators voted against the bill and 52 in favour but without the required 60 votes it failed to pass. Without fast track authority TTIP will require the support of both the US Senate and House of Representatives. This will, at the very least, slow events and could prove fatal.

This also goes for TPP (the Trans Pacific Partnership, like TTIP but US-Asia) and TISA (the Trade in Services Agreement) which is at a much earlier stage (trade negotiators love acronyms). I warmly welcome this greater scrutiny. It is only right that these deals are not treated as “regular” trade deals about nuts and bolts, the issues covered are far more significant and deserve a proper level of scrutiny. A level of scrutiny we in Europe are fighting for.

Remarkably events took another turn yesterday. President Obama continued to push forward with TTIP and by striking a new deal with the Democrats in the Senate has secured the votes required to have a debate on fast track powers. It is not yet clear whether in the end the bill will pass but even if successful it will also need the support of the House of Representatives.

These complications do not mean the end of TTIP as some hastily proclaimed. Anyone with concerns cannot take their eyes off the issue. As I have stated before there is still the potential for a positive outcome that will benefit the people of Scotland and we must continue to push for this.

Whether the SNP will support TTIP is down to whether the EU Commission can secure such an outcome. We have been very clear about our red lines as you have seen from previous updates. The NHS, Scottish water and public services more generally must be protected alongside a commitment to not compromise EU standards. There is still a lot of work to be done before it is a treaty that will be in the interests of Scotland.

The timescale for TTIP has just been expanded and it is not clear when a final text will appear before the European Parliament. I will continue to play a role in the development of TTIP and keep you up to date with events as they occur. It is however obvious that there are significant concerns about TTIP not just in Europe but also in the US. We could have to wait years for the end result to emerge.

In the meantime, the scrutiny within the European Parliament continues, with the Lange Report gathering opinions from several Parliamentary Committees. You can follow its progress here. In the Agriculture Committee we put down a number of amendments seeking to:

  1. stop TTIP talks altogether pending a much more worked out strategy
  2. remove Agriculture from TTIP altogether (on the grounds that the EU's high agriculture, food safety and animal welfare standards are likely to be traded away for other interests)
  3. ensure that EU quality marques (like Dunlop cheese, Arbroath Smokies and Stornoway Black Pudding) receive formal legal protection in the US.

All of our amendments were defeated by a bloc of right wing MEPs. We will need to be on our toes to have any influence, remember that many MEPs will be happy to vote TTIP through whatever is in it. It will be those MEPs, like your SNP MEPs, who keep our votes in play, who will have a chance to maximise influence.

We will continue to keep you up to date as anything significant occurs. Thanks for your support. Do feel free to share this update with your friends, and urge them to add themselves into our lists too, I want as many people as possible to see what we're up to. You can register at www.alynsmith.eu/stay_informed.