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Backbench Business — Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Part of National Insurance (Renaming) – in the House of Commons at 2:33 pm on 25th February 2014.

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Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Shadow PC Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Wales) 2:33 pm, 25th February 2014

I am grateful for that intervention and I will go on to agree with some of the points the hon. Gentleman has just raised.

We in Plaid Cymru support the principle of affording exporters in Wales the opportunity to further their trade with the USA. It is the largest destination for Welsh exports outside the EU and involves 23.7% of all trade, which naturally leads to the question of whether there is actually a problem to solve with the proposed trade deal. Certainly, we would support any deal that was of mutual benefit and in the Welsh national interest, and we would want guarantees that SMEs are genuinely afforded entry into the market with the chance to create more jobs and grow the economy. For example, exports from local farmers in Carmarthenshire could benefit from a favourable deal. Indeed, the Farmers Union of Wales is very encouraged by TTIP.

However, Plaid Cymru would be opposed to any deal that ended up favouring big corporations and allowed the further hollowing out of industrial sectors of the Welsh economy. We also have grave concerns about the proposed EU-US trade deal as it currently stands with regard to investor-state dispute settlement—I will talk a little more about that later in my remarks.

Much needs to be done to increase transparency in these negotiations. I am an avid follower of the Twitter account launched by the EU negotiating team, but much greater effort needs to be made by the EU and member states to explain and inform people about the TTIP. Economists at the Munich-based Ifo Institute found that a trade deal would lead to a 13.4% increase in US income per head in real terms over the long term, but an average rise of only 5% among the EU 27, now 28—we in Wales welcome our friends in Croatia to the EU table.

The figures assume that the US and EU agree on a deal that would lower transatlantic tariffs, and harmonise and ease regulations in many sectors that are often referred to as non-tariff barriers to trade. Trust in any trading partner is essential. That is why last year I read with great concern the revelations that the National Security Agency surveillance programmes had been spying on Governments in Europe, with the help of intelligence services in the UK. The spying revelations had the potential to derail the proposed deal, given the understandable outrage in some European capitals. I am amazed that there has not been more public outrage here, given the level of intrusion into private lives. I imagine that had any other foreign Government pursued such blanket intrusion, the UK Government would have armed the nukes. Their deafening silence about the NSA revelations indicates a worrying collusion aimed at sidestepping UK civil liberty protections. That is why it is incredibly important that, at every stage of the negotiations on any deal, there is full transparency and accountability, and that all groups are allowed input. This is a matter for all EU nations and regions, not just the leaders of a few select large and economically powerful states within it.

EU Trade Ministers agreed on a mandate for the European Commission to conduct negotiations with the USA on the TTIP. A lack of transparency in future negotiations is a major cause for concern, yet EU Governments insist on keeping the mandate confidential. The trumped-up excuse—that it is necessary for negotiations —does not stand up to analysis, as it will be available for the US to access. The mandate on the terms of any deal should be freely debated in the European Parliament and in European Parliaments, and not arrogantly assumed by the European Commission and state Governments.

The French Government have apparently secured the exclusion of culture and audiovisual services from the mandate. There are still many risks that deserve the same attention. There are serious concerns that negotiations could lead to investor claims that threaten core EU standards and rules on the protection of public services— such as the NHS, which was raised earlier—intellectual property, food safety, GMO crops, and health and environmental standards.