I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss this important issue here today. While the public debate around the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, seemed to quieten down after the white hot heat of the general election, the issue is once again in the spotlight following the debate on the Lange report in the European Parliament this week. It is right that, at this important moment in the development of this agreement, the House considers the deal and its possible implications for our public services, especially in light of yesterday’s vote—although it is an indicative vote, and therefore non-binding.
After two years of negotiations, TTIP remains a highly controversial issue across Europe. To date, almost 2.5 million people have signed a Europe-wide petition in opposition to the proposals. It is clear from that, and from the high degree of public participation in consultations on the issues, that many people remain highly sceptical about the detail of those complex negotiations. That mobilisation of public opinion is a credit to the tireless campaigning work carried out by organisations such as War on Want and other campaigns, including that of 38 Degrees, which plays a valuable role in helping to inform the debate on a range of issues and in affording people the opportunity to make their voice heard.
Before I move to the areas of most concern to my constituents and me, I should state that some parts of the current proposals, despite their faults, have widespread support. I agree with the fundamental principle that has underpinned the negotiations. Europe and the US should work together to increase trade across the Atlantic. Trade is good for jobs. Scotland alone enjoyed £3.9 billion of exports to the US in 2013, making the US our single biggest market outside the EU. The US remains the largest inward investor in Scotland, with investment supporting some 100,000 jobs. I support measures that would grow the market for Scottish products in the US, and back any plans that will attract new investment to Scotland to support our growing economy. Our export potential is huge, and we must do all we can to support Scottish firms in maximising that.
It is in that context that I support a reduction in tariffs that would allow Scottish firms to compete on a level playing field with US manufacturers, because that would be good news for Scottish jobs. Despite these potential benefits, however, several key aspects of the proposals serve to undermine the whole process as things stand. The lack of transparency around the negotiations has prevented proper scrutiny and diminished public confidence.