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All 56 SNP MPs sign motion expressing major concerns about TTIP

The National | 28 September 2015

All 56 SNP MPs sign motion expressing major concerns about TTIP

Kathleen Nutt

Campaigners against the big-business deal TTIP have welcomed the signing of a Commons motion raising major concerns about it by all 56 SNP MPs.

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, last night welcomed the move, saying it was the first time a large group of opposition politicians had taken a strong stance regarding the damaging impact threatened by the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is being negotiated between the EU and the US.

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, put forward the early day motion, and it has now been signed by every member of the SNP group at Westminster, as well as the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

The motion spells out particular fears over the treaty’s investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which would give foreign corporations legal power to sue governments over new laws being proposed by governments that they could argue would damage profits, as well as measures that could undermine a government’s ability to legislate on food safety regulations, environmental standards, public services contracts and workers’ rights.

It also called on the UK Government to ensure TTIP is fully scrutinised by Parliament and to oppose inclusion of the ISDS mechanism.

“This is a significant development,” said Dearden. “Until this point we’ve had signs of concerns among opposition MPs but this is the first time such a large number of MPs in one party has come out to say they are fundamentally concerned about the negotiations. That bodes very well as the SNP makes up a large part of the opposition now.”

The European Commission – which is leading the negotiations – estimates the TTIP deal could boost the size of the EU economy by £85bn by removing trade barriers with the United States.

Supporters also argue it will lead to consumers enjoying cheaper products and services as tariff barriers – levies imposed to control cross-border trade – are cut to zero.

However, across Europe a huge grassroots movement has sprung up against the treaty, with growing fears that the main beneficiaries will be American big businesses.

Dearden said while he welcomed the SNP’s group support for Lucas’s motion, he would like the party to take a stronger stance against the whole treaty.

“Most SNP supporters are against TTIP but the official party policy is not to oppose the whole treaty,” he said. “They have concerns about the impact of the treaty on the NHS and concerns about the corporate court system but they don’t oppose the treaty in its entirety. They think Scotland could benefit in terms of export opportunities to the US.”

He added: “But we really can’t see this treaty fulfilling the needs of ordinary people in Scottish society.

“This treaty is all about representing the interests of big business. Large corporations are the ones who are going to be benefitting from the corporate courts system, pushing for weaker regulations and weaker standards, and when big businesses gets more of its way it is harder for small businesses to compete.

“This treaty will make it harder for smaller businesses to bid for government contracts when faced with competition from US giants prepared to undercut their bids, and farmers in Scotland will have to compete against huge agriculture enterprises in the US working in a framework with fewer regulations. Small businesses should be very concerned about this treaty.”

The Scottish Greens have come out definitively against the deal, describing it as an “assault on democracy”, while Scottish Labour is also opposed to the ISDS mechanism and to any threat the deal would pose to the NHS.

Lawsuits against a number of national governments have already been pursued in other countries that have been the subject of similar trade agreements.

Fracking company Lone Pine launched a $230 million (£150m) lawsuit against the Canadian Government in 2011 after Quebec’s moratorium on fracking amid environmental concerns.

The firm, which had been issued with fracking licences before the moratorium, raised the action under the North American Free Trade Agreement using the ISDS clause, claiming a threat to profits.

The Scottish Government has no formal role in the negotiations and ratification of the agreement is the responsibility of the European Parliament and EU heads of state.

Negotiations began in July 2013 and are expected to continue throughout much of next year.

A SNP spokesman said last night: “Any potential economic benefits of TTIP cannot come at the price of the threat of the privatisation of our public services like the NHS.

“As we made clear in our General Election manifesto, we will seek an explicit exemption for the NHS and Scottish Water, as part of a general public-sector exemption, from the agreement – and share the view that there has been a lack of transparency during the negotiation process.”

 source: The National