At the Cheshire East Council Cabinet meeting on 3rd May, Labour councillors raised concerns that Cheshire East Council will be affected dramatically by the draft TTIP trade agreement with USA. TTIP will affect the services we all receive and the cost to the council tax and business rates payer. It will stop the council awarding contracts to local independent suppliers.
Under TTIP Macclesfield and other hospitals could face further privatisation of services, spiralling costs of drugs and many believe, we'll ultimately lose our hospital to cost cutting as a result of this agreement. Small businesses will be affected because they will come under increased, unfair pressure from much larger companies.
TTIP will make a nonsense of local planning decisions. It will increase the number of appeals and the workload of our, already overloaded planners and will ultimately take decision making away from the planners and put it in the hands of corporate lawyers.
The European Parliament has called for publicly-funded education, health and social services in the UK to be clearly excluded from the trade agreement. However, the past experience of Canada with exclusion clauses written into trade deals with the US, shows that such exclusion clauses are ineffective.
Talks are still taking place in secrecy with corporations being handed 'privileged access' to negotiations while civil society is locked out. It's a backroom deal that puts corporations before citizens, profits before the environment, and private interests before public services. Because TTIP negotiations are conducted in secret, there's no way of knowing what that system will look like until the agreement is signed. There is no transparency.
The proposed Investment Court System to replace the Investor State Dispute Settlement is already being criticised. Just a few days ago Germany's largest association of public judges and prosecutors publicly rejected the ICS questioning its legal basis and the EU's competence in its establishment. The ICS provisions "do not meet minimum standards for judicial office". And they went further, questioning an even more fundamental issue: is the proposal legal in the first place? When prominent judges question the legality of the Commission's plans, and their impacts on the existing court systems, then surely there is an urgent need to reassess the position.
This trade agreement poses a serious threat to environmental sustainability, consumer protection and more to the point, local democracy.
Janet Jackson, Labour Councillor for Macclesfield Central said, "In reality, TTIP isn't about free trade but about increasing corporate power and undermining the capacity of governments, both local and national, to regulate legitimate areas of public policy. TTIP will focus on so called 'non-tariff barriers to trade' such as environmental, and health and safety regulations."
The Conservative Cabinet rejected the proposal to call for an assessment of the potential impact of TTIP on local authorities, ignoring all the criticism at regional, national, and international level made of this process. The report to Cabinet, and its subsequent decision suggests that, irrespective of competing arguments, it had already made up its mind before the debate ever took place!