Friday, 22 August 2014

Different approaches to possible new trade rules

North Ayrshire & Arran Labour MP Katy Clark has written to UK Prime Minister David Cameron to raise her concerns over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a new set of trading rules currently being negotiated by the European Union and the United States of America.

Fears have been expressed that TTIP, if implemented, could allow American companies to bid for contracts currently delivered in the UK by the public sector, including in the health service.  However, while seeking “cast-iron assurances” that any new trading arrangements could not be imposed on the NHS in Scotland, John Swinney MSP, the SNP Scottish Government’s Finance Secretary, believes TTIP “could deliver significant economic benefits for Scotland”.

Explaining why she has written to the Prime Minister, Katy Clark said she wants David Cameron to “stand up for public services”, adding, “TTIP would let companies sue if national governments pass laws that hurt profits.  This is bad news for our existing public services, such as the NHS, or other services that we may wish to take back into public ownership, such as the railways.  Private companies already run certain services, but under the new plans the government would never be allowed to run these services again as doing so would hurt the profits of the private companies involved.”

Ms Clark argues the UK Prime Minister should “act in our country’s interest,” noting that “France has already won the right to carry on supporting its film industry and the US has blocked any deal on its finance sector.  If the leaders of these countries can protect what’s important to them, then David Cameron can do the same for Britain.”

Earlier this month, in a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s European and External Relations Committee, John Swinney set out the SNP Government’s approach to TTIP, saying, “The US is Scotland's largest export market outwith the EU and most significant source of inward investment. Indeed, as Scotland exports relatively more goods to the US than the UK and attracts a larger share of inward investment, the impacts of TTIP on Scotland are potentially greater than for the UK as a whole.  Given this, the Scottish Government is keen to ensure that Scotland gains the maximum benefit from the estimated £4-10bn annual increase in UK national income arising from TTIP and the estimated £100m increase in exports from Scotland to the USA.  It is in this context that the First
Minister emphasised the importance of TTIP to Scotland when he met the EU Trade Commissioner, Karel De Gucht, last September. “

With regard to the health service, the SNP Cabinet Secretary said, “Given the vital importance of the NHS to the people of Scotland and concerns about the impact of TTIP on the NHS, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing will be writing to the [UK] Secretary of State for Health requiring 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 [proposed] Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanisms”.

Mr Swinney concluded, “The Scottish Government believes that TTIP could deliver significant economic benefits for Scotland and has been engaging with the UK Government to maximise the benefits of TTIP for Scotland and to ensure that concerns about TTIP are addressed.”

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