Welcome to my latest update on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations. As one of your representatives in the European Parliament I am committed to keeping people up to date, as you can see from previous updates in these pages.
As it currently stands, I am opposed to TTIP. It remains early days and, done right, there could be considerable benefits to freeing up trade between the EU and US. For example, it has been estimated Scotland could gain an additional £1,400 million trade a year but I have concerns over both how TTIP is being negotiated and what is under discussion.
I agree with many of you that it is not yet clear whether TTIP will actually deliver these and in fact there is a risk that our standards could be undermined. I am particularly concerned that the highest possible standards are maintained in public health, labour rights and ecological integrity.
Much of the public, and my own concern over TTIP stems from the fact negotiations are taking place under a shroud of secrecy between the US authorities and the European Commission representing all EU states. Both myself and my group in the European Parliament have strongly condemned this and we have made some progress.
I welcome this week’s comments from EU Trade Commissioner-Designate Cecelia Malmström that she would “seek to find the provisions to improve transparency but still maintain the confidentiality needed in these kind of the negotiations.” This is progress, and I am eagerly awaiting any further information that comes from this and I will of course report back to you if anything emerges over the next few weeks.
A crucial concern I have is the impact of TTIP on the provision of services by the Scottish Government, in particular in relation to our Scottish National Health Service. The so called ‘Investor-state dispute settlement’ (ISDS) must not be allowed to serve as a back door to the privatisation of the NHS.
John Swinney MSP has written to the Secretary of State for Health asking for “cast-iron assurances that, whatever the approach to the provision of health services in the rest of the UK, TTIP will not affect the Scottish Government’s ability to determine how NHS services are provided; that there will be no obligation to open the NHS in Scotland to private providers as is happening in England; and that decisions of the Scottish Government in respect of the NHS would not be open to potential challenge through ISDS mechanisms.”
I hope that we will receive such assurances.
I have also contacted the European Commission about the implications that TTIP could have on the NHS. Ignacio Garcia Bercero (the EU chief negotiator) wrote in a letter dated 8th July 2014 that: “although health services are in principle within the scope these agreements and on going negotiations, we are confident that the rights of EU Member States to manage their health systems according to their various needs can be fully safeguarded.
“The EU does not intend to change its approach to health service in trade negotiations for TTIP.”
These comments are reassuring but until we know what TTIP will actually propose it is impossible for me to support it. This treaty will be presented, in full, to the European Parliament where it will be debated, scrutinised and only then will it be voted upon. Negotiations are continuing but the European Parliament will have the final say.
I will not vote to pass a treaty that is not in the best interests of Scotland. Thank you for your interest and support to date. I will be keeping a very close watch on the progress of TTIP and will notify you of any developments.
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