Trade with the United States is crucial for Europe in the recovery of our economy and job creation, and for making it easier for small and medium sized businesses to export. Negotiations on a trade agreement aimed at expanding economic opportunities are therefore welcomed by the European Parliamentary Labour Party and the other members of the Group of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament
However, Labour MEPs have been very clear that we will not support any measures at the EU level which would lock-in the Coalition Government's privatisation of the NHS, or indeed hamper the ability of any future Labour government to renationalise privatised health and social care services. In recent confirmation hearings for the European Commission's Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom we asked her to guarantee protection of the NHS and other public services in any future TTIP deal.
Labour MEPs believe it is crucial that any agreement does not reduce health, safety or worker protection standards. As the TTIP would cover almost half of all world trade we in fact think that it has the possibility of setting the global standards we have long fought for in the Labour movement and improving the rights of US workers. Our position in all trade negotiations is to seek to guarantee high standards of social and environmental protection.
All existing EU trade agreements protect the right of governments to run public services. In general terms this means that all EU Member States are able to nationalise, or renationalise, any industry which it considers a public utility.
The EU changed its approach in the recent trade deal with Canada in which all public services not explicitly excluded from the agreement are included. We have expressed our concerns about this approach and made clear in the Parliament Plenary in July and the International Trade committee in September that we will not support any deal which fails to prevent further privatisation or liberalisation of public services. We have requested absolute clarity from the European Commission on the specific services being considered for inclusion in this agreement and we are seeking exemptions for certain sectors such as education, transport, water supply, waste management, healthcare and others.
Labour MEPs have also been strongly opposed to the proposed Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism in TTIP and other trade agreements, as it poses a significant threat to state sovereignty and democratic control of public policy.
We have raised all of these concerns with the European Commission and the European Council and will continue to do so as the negotiations continue. We believe that the discussions should be as transparent as possible and we are pleased that the Commission recently published its negotiating mandate following our requests.
My website will contain updates on the progression of the TTIP negotiations and I will keep any constituents who have written to me about the issue informed by e-mail.
Julie Ward MEP
Member of the European Parliament for the North West of Englan