Transparency urged on trade deal

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Published: Monday 16th February 2015 by The News Editor

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More transparency is needed on negotiations between the European Union and the United States on a controversial new trade deal, the Government has admitted.

Opponents of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership stepped up their criticism, repeating claims that the deal will lead to NHS services being privatised.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said the UK will greatly benefit from closer economic ties with the US, but added that more transparency was needed to help address public concerns.

In a meeting in London today Mr Cable and UK Trade Minister Lord Livingston will ask EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom to give senior UK parliamentarians access to TTIP treaty text as it is developed, so that they can monitor progress and ask questions on the public’s behalf.

The Government will also offer to make other key documents relating to the progress of the negotiations available to all MPs and members of the House of Lords, ensuring that they have the same access as Members of the European Parliament to view EU-authored TTIP negotiating materials.

Mr Cable said: “I dislike the level of secrecy that has surrounded the TransatlanticTrade deal so far and can completely understand why some people are worried. I have met many campaign groups over the last nine months to discuss this and taken on board many of their concerns.

“I will be working to ensure all British interests are protected and that the deal can be properly scrutinised.

“Where our interests are not harmed by disclosure, then disclosure must take place. At the moment people in Britain with questions about what is on the negotiating table for TTIP think that Europe and the US have something to hide. This is not the case. I have been pushing for as much of the negotiation as possible to be done out in the open.

“We must also clearly demonstrate that the NHS and our public services are protected as a priority. The EU has recently given us very strong assurances that TTIP would not in any way endanger them. I want to see that reflected in the treaty drafting.”

Unite said it had received legal advice from an expert in EU law and healthcare services that there are “clear dangers” arising from TTIP that will impact on the NHS.

Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey said: “Expert legal advice confirms our worst fears about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. This is why we are calling on David Cameron to use his veto to deliver a robust carve out.

“There is no doubt that NHS services are being included in TTIP. As a result there is the clear risk of irreversible privatisation because the trade deal will give US corporations or investors the right to sue our government if it ever tried to take back services into public ownership.

“The advice also makes clear that even the implicit threat raised by these new rights and the billions of pounds at stake can paralyse any attempts to take privatised services back into public ownership once the trade deal is signed.

“The UK government has no mandate to hand new rights over our NHS to US corporations and their lawyers. We urge David Cameron to act.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Anyone who cares about the NHS should be worried about what TTIP might mean for its future.

“This isn’t unions scaremongering, we’re simply trying to shine a spotlight on the lengthy negotiations around the draft treaty which have been going on for months behind closed doors.”

Published: Monday 16th February 2015 by The News Editor

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