​#PeopleNOTpolls: Where the parties stand on TTIP

Reuters/Toby Melville
Ahead of May’s general election, the main political parties and many of their smaller rivals have published their manifesto stances on the secretly-negotiated, free-market pact known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The deal between the EU and the US, which could result in massive deregulation along neoliberal lines, and which critics say could cause huge harm to standards of living, aims to remove ‘barriers’ to the market.

War on Want, a UK NGO which has placed the campaign against TTIP at the heart of its activities, contests this loose definition.

The breaking down of these barriers inevitably means the stripping away of “labor rights, food safety rules (including restrictions on GMOs), regulations on the use of toxic chemicals, digital privacy laws and even new banking safeguards introduced to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis,” the charity argues.

The three main parties have taken broadly similar positions, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats emphasizing their support. They however stress their support for mechanisms that will ensure accountability.

The Lib Dems pledged that “We will only support an agreement that upholds EU standards of consumer, employee and environmental protection, and allows us to determine how NHS services are provided.

Likewise, the Labour Party said it aims to “ensure the NHS is protected from the TTIP treaty.

We support the principles behind the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Treaty.

We will hold the European Commission to account on issues of concern, including the impact on public services and the Investor to State Dispute Settlement Mechanism (ISDS),” it added.

The ISDS mechanism could potentially allow foreign corporations to sue the UK government should democratic institutions pursue policies at odds with their profits.

The Conservatives support the scheme in line with their traditionally frank commitment to the market.

READ MORE: British MPs say US-EU free trade deal must not leave govts at multinationals’ mercy

READ MORE: ‘Opaque & undemocratic’: TTIP a threat to NHS & public services, say MPs

We will push for freer global trade, concluding major trade deals with the US, India and Japan and reinvigorating the World Trade Organization,” the manifesto pledge reads.

Conversely, Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru, the Green Party’s England and Wales section, and Scottish sister organization the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), and Left Unity all strongly “oppose” the deal.

Plaid’s manifesto states “We are concerned that it [TTIP] puts too much power into the hands of international corporations, threatens to weaken our democratic institutions and undermine hard-earned improvements in public services, intellectual property, food safety, health and environmental standards.

We oppose any part of this deal that may lead to the privatization of the NHS.

The Green Party of England and Wales meanwhile said the “TTIP is globalization in its worst form, designed to submit democratically elected governments to the will of private corporations.

The Scottish Greens likewise claimed, “If adopted, TTIP will also increase the power of corporations to influence our health, food and environmental protections and to sue governments over new laws.

TUSC listed the “secret” nature of the pact among its objections.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, UKIP oppose the deal on Euroskeptic grounds.

“TTIP is a proposed EU/USA free trade agreement that is being negotiated in secret by the EU Trade Commission and other EU bureaucrats,” UKIP’s manifesto reads.

The level of public concern around TTIP makes it a good example of what can potentially go wrong while we remain in the EU and allow EU Commissioners to negotiate every single trade agreement on behalf of twenty-eight member states, including the UK, en bloc.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) is due to publish its manifesto next week.