Our colleagues at the LGA Lib Dems have pulled together advice from ALDC, Catherine Bearder MEP’s office, and other sources into a template response letter for concerned residents.
The letter’s aim is to counter the perception that the conditions of the agreement itself have been reached (they are still very much in negotiation), and to reassure those with concerns about the protection of state-run public services that Liberal Democrats, and our various liberal sister parties in Europe, would oppose any deal that would threaten the independence or integrity of public services – a ‘public services exemption’ has been included in TTIP discussions from the beginning and remains in place.
Thank you for your email about TTIP and your concerns that it might lead to backdoor privatisation of public services. I would also be concerned about any treaty that allowed our public services to be privatised.
An agreement over TTIP has not yet been reached, however we have had assurances in both Houses of Parliament by government ministers that public services will be exempt from TTIP. Of course we must all hold their feet to the fire and ensure this is actually the case.
Additionally Karel De Gucht, the European Commissioner for Trade until November, said in an interview last year: “Public services are always exempted – there is no problem about exemption.”
And when he was Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “It cannot force governments to open markets or privatise public services, nor will it give excessive rights to US investors.”
If I thought TTIP was a means to lock in privatisation then I would be opposed to it, and if it were to transpire that the assurances we have been given are not kept I would then oppose it.
I understand that earlier this year the European Parliament backed the conclusion of talks over TTIP but called for the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) to be scrapped.
The Liberal Group in the European Parliament led the calls to get the controversial ISDS replaced by a transparent and accountable form of investor protection that protects the right of governments to regulate in the public interest. The European Commission have listened to these concerns and have now proposed a new investment court system for TTIP and other EU trade and investment negotiations.
The plans for an investment court system would mean any trade dispute would be settled in an open and transparent way, rather than in a private tribunal. This international court system would also enshrine a governments’ right to regulate in the public interest.
This proposal from the commission is far from the end of the process. The Commission will now have discussions with Member States through the European Council and the European Parliament. Once the text of the proposal has been discussed, it will be presented as an EU text proposal in the EU-US trade talks and will be used in other ongoing and future negotiations.
Finally, in parallel to the TTIP negotiations, the Commission will start work, together with other countries, on setting up a permanent International Investment Court. The objective is that over time the International Investment Court would replace all investment dispute resolution mechanisms provided in EU agreements, EU Member States’ agreements with third countries and in trade and investment treaties concluded between non-EU countries. This would further increase the efficiency, consistency and legitimacy of the international investment dispute resolution system.
The negotiations on TTIP provide an opportunity to strengthen the ties across the Atlantic. Both economically and geopolitically, I think this provides an opportunity we should not miss. As of yet, there is not a treaty text as the negotiations are still ongoing. It may take years to conclude it, this is not the time to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to TTIP. The European Parliament will have its final say when all the negotiations are finalised, it will then go to each EU Member
State for their parliaments to agree before the whole agreement comes into effect. Liberal Democrats will continue to lobby for the kind of TTIP that we want – namely, one which delivers new jobs, but does not undermine the rule of law, the NHS or our environmental standards.
I hope this response is helpful, please feel free to contact me again about this or any other matter in the future.
You might also want to raise this issue with your MP, as the local Council is not in a position to directly influence the negotiations of this international agreement whereas parliament is.
SUGGESTED AMENDMENTS TO MOTION
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
1. Council notes that there has been no impact assessment about the potential impact of a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, currently being negotiated by the EU and USA, on local authorities.
2. Council notes that MEPs from different political groups have been campaigning to ensure that, should a trade agreement between the EU and the USA be concluded, it does not in any way limit the ability of public authorities, whether at local, national or European level, to act for the public interest. Council welcomes:
• the amendments to the recently adopted European parliament resolution successfully calling for a full exclusion of all public services, present or future, from the scope of the agreement, as well as a clear rejection of any type of measures that could undermine public authorities’ autonomy and sovereignty, including at local level, and their commitment to veto any agreement that fails to address these concerns.
• the calls in the European Parliament to get the controversial ISDS replaced by a transparent and accountable form of investor protection that protects the right of governments to regulate in the public interest.
3. Council assembly believes that a thorough impact assessment of TTIP on local authorities must be undertaken before the negotiations can be concluded.
4. Council notes the concerns already expressed by the Local Government Association and fought for in the European Parliament including:
• Clear and specific safeguards for services delivered by councils, including education and social services;
• The continued right for councils to determine their own service delivery models now and in the future;
• The continued right for national governments and councils to set public policy and standards in all fields: health, safety, environmental protection, labour law, data protection, consumer protection etc.
5. Council calls on the cabinet/leader to:
• Write to the secretary of state for communities and local government, local MPs and MEPs, raising our serious concerns about the impact of TTIP on local authorities and the secrecy of the negotiating process.
• Write to the Local Government Association to raise our serious concerns about the impact of TTIP on local authorities and ask them to continue to raise these with government and in Europe on our behalf.
• Join with other local authorities and local campaigners to raise awareness about our concerns over TTIP and call for an impact assessment on the impact of TTIP on local authorities.
LGA Corporate Policy Update
LGA corporate update on TTIP, November 2015
- We are working closely with councils across the EU in a coordinated way on this topic and successfully secured in July 2015 an amendment in the European Parliament to call for education, health, social and other public services to be clearly excluded from TTIP. Click here for more details.
- This comes on top of a statement issued by the negotiators reassuring the public sector on this point. Click here for info.
- So, following our work, things are heading in the right direction for councils.
Nevertheless we continue to work on this. The next step will be to scrutinise the actual text of any agreement which may come about next year to ensure the legal drafting on these points is watertight.
- There is also a position of local and regional authorities across Europe from the pan-EU LGA which can be found here (we have had input and it is very much in line with the LGA’s approach). Click here.
- Government of course is a very strong supporter of the deal, as UK stands to benefit even more than others (because of language and existing trade links with US). Any deal will also have to be endorsed by the EU’s 28 national parliaments, including the UK’s.