TTIP Update October 2015

Welcome to my latest Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) update. Since the Lange report was passed in July (despite SNP opposition) the tale of TTIP has continued to twist and turn.

Firstly, I am delighted to share with you a development that I announced at the recent SNP Conference. Nicola Sturgeon has written to the UK Government urging them “to ensure that the NHS is fully and explicitly exempt from TTIP and, if that is not the case, to use its veto at the European Council to prevent TTIP progressing.”

The full text of the letter can be found here and my speech announcing it can be watched here

Once again the SNP and the Scottish Government are serving as the real opposition to the UK Government. I hope that David Cameron will agree to make such a pledge and actually represent the people of Scotland, though I fear I will be disappointed! For our part, I repeat our assurance that if there is any risk to the provision of public services in Scotland, TTIP will not receive SNP support in any parliament, or any council chamber.

Though there have been no major parliamentary votes or debates in Europe on TTIP there have been a number of smaller events to keep track of. As some of you may have noticed the highly controversial Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) has been ‘replaced’. However, instead of responding to widespread concerns about ISDS, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has indulged in a political marketing exercise and simply replaced it with an almost identical Investment Court System (ICS).

Let me be clear, this is not good enough.

From the very beginning I have always stated that any proposal to create a separate legal mechanism to protect investors is completely unacceptable. I simply do not see why it is necessary for corporations to have a different set of rules to the general law, particularly since we are talking about two of the most advanced legal systems in the world.

Moving further afield, the US has just concluded the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal with 12 other countries ringing the Pacific Ocean. TPP amounts to the most significant free trade accord in memory and these countries account for 40 per cent of today’s global economic output. TPP and TTIP have often been seen as siblings and it is clear that they share many features, not least controversy!

Concluding the negotiations was only the beginning and now the treaty must be ratified, not least by the United States. In recent times it has become clear that the Senate and House of Representatives are increasingly concerned and may not do so. More remarkably Hilary Clinton, who has previously supported the treaty, has publically stated that the end result is not what she had hoped for. Crucially, she has said that if elected as President she would not support TPP.

This opposition clearly serves as an advance warning to anyone expecting TTIP to be simply waved through on the other side of the Atlantic.

TTIP’s other relative, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada, has also been moving along quietly behind closed doors. A number of you have emailed me about this treaty so I wish to lay out briefly where we stand.

The full text for CETA as negotiated is available to anyone who wishes to read it. However, before you all eagerly dive into its scintillating 1,600 pages (available here) I would urge some caution.

The text is currently in a strange version of limbo called ‘legal scrubbing.’ Beyond conjuring fantastical images of lawyers with mops this is a process that will result in a number of (I suspect substantive) changes to the text we have. At the very least I expect the current ISDS settlement within CETA will be changed. Until we know what these changes are I will continue to withhold my final judgment. The final text should be released some time next year, I will of course up date you when it is.

Let me reassure you that the red lines that myself and the SNP have for TTIP are every bit as applicable to CETA and I will not support a treaty that contains ISDS or any similar system.

I still think it could be possible to reform TTIP in a positive direction and I will use every effort to do so. It would be irresponsible to disengage from the process and then complain afterwards that the end result isn’t good enough. I am deeply concerned by TTIP and CETA but so long as I have a mandate to get the best deal for Scotland I will not take the easy approach of walking away.

I will continue to monitor this situation, and keep you informed via these updates. My red lines are clear and I will not compromise upon them. The NHS and other public services must be clearly carved out, European standards must not be compromised and corporations must not be given any special rights to sue governments that pursue policies they disagree with.