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Backbench Business — Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Part of National Insurance (Renaming) – in the House of Commons at 4:46 pm on 25th February 2014.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North 4:46 pm, 25th February 2014

Thank you for calling me, Madam Deputy Speaker. I apologise to the House for not being able to be here for the first part of the debate. I will end my remarks in time for my right hon. Friend John Healey to conclude the debate.

We should be extremely cautious about the whole process that has been put before us. If anyone has looked at the experience of the free trade agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico, they will quickly see who benefits and even more quickly who loses as a result of it. The people who lose out are those who are on the margins of society, those who are vulnerable and those who are open to great exploitation. Thus, farm workers in Mexico have lost their jobs in favour of high-tech farming imports from the US and US companies have moved across the border to Mexico to exploit lower wages. Mexican trucks are not allowed to drive into the US beyond a short distance from the border. There are a lot of restrictions. It is not an equal power relationship. It is a very damaging power relationship. The agreement is unpopular in the US and Canada, but it is also unpopular with many people in Mexico, who see themselves as losing out as a result of that.

I give that as an example. We should be extremely cautious about the claims that are made. When the North American Free Trade Agreement was reached, it was claimed that there would be several million new jobs as a result. The result has actually been the loss of about 1 million jobs. The same exaggerated but unsubstantiated claims about jobs and the profits that will be made by particular companies are being made about the transatlantic agreement.

There are specific concerns. Why is there such secrecy surrounding the negotiations? Why are not all the documents on the table? Why are the demands made on European public services by the American negotiators not made public? Why are not the demands made in the other direction also made public? I suspect that, if the agreement ever comes to fruition, every Parliament in Europe and the US system will be presented with a fait accompli: they will be told that they have to accept it.

There are huge concerns. Many of my colleagues have raised concerns about the NHS. We all, I hope, support the principle of a health service free at the point of use. What we do not support is the destruction of our health service in favour of a series of companies coming in to take over very efficient services delivered by public sector workers.