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Backbench Business — Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Part of National Insurance (Renaming) – in the House of Commons at 1:54 pm on 25th February 2014.

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Photo of John Healey John Healey Labour, Wentworth and Dearne 1:54 pm, 25th February 2014

The answer is simply because a deal with China is very different from a deal with the US. The US and the EU both have long traditions of due legal process. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the representations being made by business and investors, he will see that there is very little call for the arrangements. The strongest advocate to date has been the European Commission, which is why I think the pause it has put on further discussions is so significant, although it did so only because it was put under significant pressure by those who had concerns, perhaps including Mr Monbiot in The Guardian.

These trade negotiations are about a potential trade deal like no other. They are the biggest ever bilateral trade talks, because together the EU and the US account for 30% of global trade and almost 50% of the world’s output. They are also the best prepared talks ever, because the serious work was going on for almost two years before the talks were formally launched, and they are the most ambitious negotiations ever, because for the first time in history this would be an agreement between economic equals, without any significant imbalance in power and wealth.

This is, therefore, a deal like no other, but it is being conducted at a time like no other, because since the 2008 global financial crisis and world downturn, faith in politicians, established civil servants and big business is at an all-time low and mistrust at an all-time high. I think that heightens the sense that past trade talks have been unjustifiably conducted in secret, controlled by a few big countries and often dominated by the interests of multinational companies.

A symptom of that current suspicion led War on Want to assert in a well-written report last week:

“TTIP is…correctly understood not as a negotiation between two competing trading partners, but as an attempt by transnational corporations to prise open and deregulate markets on both sides of the Atlantic.”

I quote that not because I agree with it, but because it is a sign of the degree of opposition and hostility to—and to some extent the lack of understanding of what is really at the heart of—the negotiations, which is fashioning the debate at present.