The need for fair and sustainable trade is an issue I have been passionate about ever since I was elected in 2014. I am an advocate of the Alternative Trade Mandate, which holds that trade must always put people and planet ahead of profit.
Labour MEPs have taken a cautious stance when it comes to these EU trade deals. While we recognise that increasing trade flows between the EU and North America could be beneficial to the UK economy, particularly in the context of Brexit, we have also raised concerns regarding some of the proposals made in these negotiations.
I have listened carefully to the many of the concerns expressed by civil society, experts and citizens regarding CETA, and particularly those on the Investor Court System and the impact on public services. I was one of the MEPs who tabled the European Parliament resolution to refer CETA’s text to the European Court of Justice to examine its compatibility with EU law. I am proud to have voted in favour of that referral, even if the resolution was not adopted. That vote expressed my commitment to promoting the values of the Alternative Trade Mandate.
The European Parliament adopted a comprehensive position on TTIP in July 2015, rejecting in particular any lowering of food and safety standards, or social standards, environmental protections, the ability of governments to make policy for the public good, and calling for a full exclusion of all public services including the NHS.
On investment protection, we have made our opposition to secret tribunals and enhanced rights for multinationals absolutely clear. In fact, Labour MEPs voted against the European Parliament resolution on TTIP because, while it rejected private arbitration tribunals, it failed to fully reject ISDS in all shapes or forms.
While as MEPs we can pass or veto trade deals once they are concluded, we cannot start or stop negotiations. It is up to national governments - including the UK government - to adopt or revoke any negotiating mandate. But it is clear that as it stands we would not be in a position to support TTIP.
As for CETA, the agreement has just been signed, but has not yet been ratified by the European Parliament or national parliaments. CETA will not be voted on in the European Parliament before 2017, and while the European Parliament’s Trade Committee has started debating the agreement’s merits and shortfalls we will reserve our final voting position until we can see the full picture.
I do take concerns about CETA very seriously, and I will continue to be vigilant on this subject. If I feel that the CETA agreement does indeed fail to put people and planet ahead of profit, I will make the judgment call to vote against the agreement. I will continue to work with my Labour and Social Democratic colleagues on this in the European Parliament, as well as civil society groups, trade unions and citizens’ movements.