I have been contacted by many constituents regarding the Backbench Business Committee debate on The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). I appreciate the concerns that have been raised and would like to clarify a few points as this agreement does not carry the risks that some have put forward.

 

As you are aware and as I have stated previously, TTIP is a free trade agreement currently under negotiation between the EU and the USA.

 

The UK Government’s aim is to: reduce the cost of meeting different regulations and standards by promoting greater compatibility between the EU and the USA; create a more integrated transatlantic marketplace which maintains the high levels of health, safety and environmental protection which we have; and bring real benefits to consumers, including more choice, cheaper goods and increased job opportunities.

 

Underlying the agreement is the opportunity to add £10 billion to our economy every year, which is almost £400 per household. This means more jobs, more choice and reduced prices. It will also directly benefit small businesses by making it easier for them to access a market of more than 300 million American consumers.

 

They will find it easier to export because of reduced regulatory differences, lower trade tariffs, smoother customs processes, and access to US public procurement markets, without compromising safety standards.

 

TTIP does not change UK laws or lower consumer, labour or environmental standards. This agreement is about helping our consumers and our businesses access new markets. Where mutually high standards can be recognised with the US they will be, but where this is not possible US businesses will have to raise their standards to meet ours, not the other way around.

 

With regards to public services, the UK Government alone decides how public services, including the NHS, are run and there is no threat to the NHS from TTIP. This has been confirmed again by The EU Chief Negotiator, Ignacio Garcia-Bercero, who stated in a letter to the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on TTIP that “there is no reason to fear either for the NHS as it stands today, or for changes to the NHS in future, as a result of TTIP”.

 

Access to NHS services will continue to be based on patients’ needs, not ability to pay, and local NHS commissioners will remain in charge of deciding who should provide services in the best interests of patients. The European Commission is following the UK’s approach that it must always be for the UK to decide for itself whether or not to open up our public services to competition.

 

Finally, I am aware people fear that investors could sue a Government for losses and win if a Government takes a decision in the wider public interest, whether on health, the environment or consumer safety (Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions). However, I am pleased this Government has made clear this could never happen. The purpose of the Investor State Dispute Settlement is to protect investors from discriminatory treatment by protectionist governments, whilst safeguarding the UK Government's freedom to make laws and regulations in the public interest.

 

Companies can already sue the UK Government over what they consider to be unfair or unlawful treatment, under UK constitutional and contract law, and that is unaffected by TTIP. The Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism provides an international forum where a claim that a business has been wronged can be heard. More documents relating to the TTIP negotiations will be made available to MPs as the process continues.  

 

Recognising people’s concerns about TTIP, the European Commission has made the negotiating mandate public. It can be accessed via the following link: http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/press/index.cfm?id=1230

 

A series of Government documents on TTIP can also be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/transatlantic-trade-and-investment-partnership-ttip

 

Finally, constituents can read the Minister of State’s response to the Backbench Business debate here: http://tinyurl.com/ze4lkea

 

Parliament has had a number of opportunities to debate this agreement. It will scrutinise the final agreement and ultimately has the final veto power.