Public consultation on anti-democratic trade deal – a sham?


The European Union’s trade commissioner, Karel De Gucht, reckons he’s going to consult the public over the controversional Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – the EU/US free trade agreement.

He says he is determined to strike the right balance between protecting EU firms’ investment interests and upholding governments’ right to regulate in the public interest.

Bear in mind, this is for the investment part of the deal, which includes investment protection and the red-hot disputed subject of investor-to-state dispute settlement, where firms would be allowed to sue governments if regulations got in the way of their profits, as the deal currently stands.

A proposed text for the investment part of the talks will be published in early March.

“Governments must always be free to regulate so they can protect people and the environment. But they must also find the right balance and treat investors fairly, so they can attract investment,” said Mr De Gucht.

“Some existing arrangements have caused problems in practice, allowing companies to exploit loopholes where the legal text has been vague.

“I know some people in Europe have genuine concerns about this part of the EU-US deal. Now I want them to have their say… TTIP will firmly uphold EU member states’ right to regulate in the public interest.”

Do you believe him?

The European Commission wants to use TTIP to improve provisions already in place that protect investments by EU-based companies in the US, and vice versa.

In practice, we are told, there would be a require for this protection to defer to states’ right to regulate in the public’s interest.

There would also be new and improved rules, including a code of conduct, to ensure arbitrators are chosen fairly and act impartially, and to open up their proceedings to the public. This comes after significant unrest about arbitrators being chosen exclusively from big business, with a natural bias towards the interests of their employers.

It seems “no other part of the negotiations is affected by this public consultation and the TTIP negotiations will continue as planned”.

Is this the only part of the deal that affects the public interest, then?

I don’t know. The TTIP negotiations have been shrouded in mystery since they began last June. Can anyone outside the talks – and those taking part are sworn to secrecy – say they are an expert?

Since the talks began, the Commission has held three rounds of consultations with stakeholders – big businesses operating in both Europe and the USA “to gather the views and wishes of the public and interested parties across Europe”, it says here.

“The Commission has also done public consultations before the start of the TTIP negotiations.” Have you taken part in any such negotiations?

The rationale behind the talks is that the EU is the world’s largest foreign direct investor and the biggest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world, so it must ensure that EU companies are well-protected when they invest in countries outside the EU. This involves reciprocal agreements to protect foreign companies.

“Investment is essential for growth, for jobs and for creating the wealth that pays for our public services, our schools, our hospitals and our pensions,” the argument goes. But who gets the wealth? The people who work to make it – whose living and working conditions are likely to be reduced dramatically to lowest-common-denominator terms? Or the company bosses who are ironing out the terms of this agreement while most of us are being told to look the other way?

Let’s look at an example of this in action. According to, the TTIP talks “could see England’s NHS tied into a privatised model semi-permanently.

“A US/EU Free Trade Agreement… will ‘dismantle hurdles to trade in goods, services and investment’ and ‘make regulations and standards compatible on both sides’.

“The EU has already stated that ‘certain “sensitive” sectors will require more negotiation’ but that ‘no sectors would be excluded from the deal completely’. David Cameron has stated such an agreement is one of his key aims during the UK’s leadership of the G8 group this year.

“The Health and Social Care Act’s Section 75 is an example of legislation guided by the principles of this overarching trade agreement. It breaks the NHS up into little parcels (the CCGs) that must offer their contracts to any willing provider. If a private provider feels they have been unfairly excluded from a contract, they can use Section 75 to take legal action… This legislation may have been written specifically to pave the way for international free trade involving the NHS.

“The idea [is] that the Health and Social Care Act was developed to allow foreign transnational corporations to profit from NHS privatisation.

“Even worse is the idea that, once passed, an international trade agreement will leave us irreversibly committed to privatising the NHS. Even with a change of government and the repeal of the Act, we’d be facing the insurmountable obstacle of international competition laws.”

The article demands that the government must be clear with the public – will our health service be opened to multinational business as part of this trade agreement?

Leftie politics sheet the New Statesman agrees: “This will open the floodgates for private healthcare providers that have made dizzying levels of profits from healthcare in the United States, while lobbying furiously against any attempts by President Obama to provide free care for people living in poverty. With the help of the Conservative government and soon the EU, these companies will soon be let loose, freed to do the same in Britain.

“The agreement will provide a legal heavy hand to the corporations seeking to grind down the health service. It will act as a Transatlantic bridge between the Health and Social Care Act in the UK, which forces the NHS to compete for contracts, and the private companies in the US eager to take it on for their own gain.

“It gives the act international legal backing and sets the whole shift to privatisation in stone because once it is made law, it will be irreversible.

“Once these ISDS tools are in place, lucrative contracts will be underwritten, even where a private provider is failing patients and the CCG wants a contract cancelled. In this case, the provider will be able to sue a CCG for future loss of earnings, causing the loss of vast sums of taxpayer money on legal and administrative costs.

“Even more worrying is that, once the TTIP is enacted, repealing the Health and Social Care Act in the UK will become almost impossible.”

The public has the democratic right to contest the agreement, and fight for a health service that protects them, the Statesman says, “but how can they when MEPs do nothing to inform opinion or gather support back home? The NHS is in a very precarious position. It seems that soon, with the help of Brussels, its fate will be sealed.”

Would you like your MEP to speak up for you – in other words, to do what he or she was elected to do and actually represent your interests? Then why not get in touch and ask why they’ve been so quiet about this for so long? It’s easy – you can find their contact details here.

The EU has released a ‘factsheet’ summarising how it would like you to understand changes to existing investment protection rules and the ISDS system.

The previous Vox Political article about TTIP is here.

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21 thoughts on “Public consultation on anti-democratic trade deal – a sham?

  1. Joseph Smith

    Does anyone really believe the ONS figures produced today which state unemployment down to 7.1%. Down 0.4% in two months? This a massive fiddle to increase interest rates. I for one do not believe these figures. For example, how many of the 0.4% actually have genuine paid jobs? And how many are being sanctioned, gone self employed or on zero hours. Liars all of them

      1. Mike Sivier

        According to the ONS’s Labour Market Statistics, published in January, the claimant count (JSA) was 1.25 million and the total number of unemployed was 2.32 million. That’s around 53 per cent claiming JSA and 47 per cent not claiming JSA so I’d say those figures were accurate enough.

  2. Alex Johnson

    thanks for the continuing articles Mike. Re finding which MEP to write to – the link you gave isn’t that helpful, or at least doesn’t help identify who exactly is my particular MEP. It maybe I’m not understanding how to use the site but…thanks anyway

    1. Mike Sivier

      I think we get several MEPs per region – so in effect when you look up the region, they’re ALL your MEP. But this is not my area of expertise so I’m prepared to stand corrected if need be.

      1. amnesiaclinic

        There are 73 for our region!!! While the uk still exists as a nation but that’s another story. A really unhelpful site. Any ideas of mep’s for herefordshire area??? Really don’t want any of the main parties – just a gravy train……

  3. Joan Edington

    My MEP, David Martin, is already part of a group that is pressing to have the ISDS part of the agreement dropped completely. I suspect that they have a hard job ahead of them although the Australian tobacco issue has certainly raised awareness. It is very noticeable that the BBC has had no coverage that I recall on the whole fiasco, unless you know to go to the specific News Europe part of their site. Since it will be so far-reaching within the UK, particularly regarding the NHS sell-off, I can only assume that their lords and masters of the coalition have laid down the law.

  4. Barry Davies

    The stupidity of this trade deal being worked out by an unelected commissioner is that we will lose our NHS to huge american health care providers whose main motivation is profit, and people who have pre existing conditions will be excluded from getting any health care insurance. Welcome to the eussr death farm system

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  7. jaypot2012

    Reblogged on Jay’s Journal and commented:

    I was born British – then all of a sudden I was a European who is now to be taken over by the US!?!?!?!

    I’m getting onto my SEP this evening as I don’t want this EU/US free trade agreement to go ahead. In actual fact, it’s vital that it does not!

  8. CJ

    My MEP is already speaking for me and opposing the TTIP! Jill Evans of Plaid Cymru! May that wonderful, hard-working woman keep her seat!

    1. Barry Davies

      MEP’s are window dressing, they have no real power. Whilst I applaud her efforts the brussells parliament can not stop it going through.

  9. HomerJS

    Several years ago I read an article on the top paid people in the US. Top of the list was a CEO in a private health firm. From that moment on I could see how attractive an opportunity our NHS would be. As Mike has said, when the NHS act came out I could see the way things were starting to move towards what I had feared. And yes, TTIP would cement it into place.

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