Draft EU-Canada Trade Agreement Order

Part of Food Advertising (Protection of Children from Targeting) – in the House of Commons at 1:19 pm on 26th June 2018.

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Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade 1:19 pm, 26th June 2018

Over the past few years, the Government have entirely failed to explain why British taxpayers should be on the hook for ordinary commercial risks faced by foreign investors. If a company has concerns about the stability of the regulatory environment, it should factor that into its investment decision. Recognising the flaws in the arbitration model, the European Commission and Canada have moved to a courts-based system, but the Secretary of State covered that, so I will not dwell on it.

A Labour Government would not seek ISDS provisions in future trade agreements, but the threat to the Government’s capacity to deliver in the public interest is not confined to the use of ISDS mechanisms. Modern trade agreements such as CETA and the EU-Japan economic partnership have been negotiated using the negative list approach for the scheduling of services liberalisation commitments. Under this approach, all service sectors not explicitly exempted from liberalisation are included. The use of this method marks a significant departure from the use of the positive list in all earlier EU trade agreements, where only those service sectors listed are subject to the rules and disciplines of the agreement. It is considered a particular threat to public services, as it may prove impossible to shield them from liberalisation effectively once they have been committed to an international trade treaty.

This means that any emergent sector in the future will automatically be subject to liberalisation even where there might be a clear need for Government intervention. We cannot predict what those will be prior to their emergence, but that is the very point of using a negative list—to reduce the capacity of the Government to regulate in the future. Collectively, these measures only benefit big businesses and curtail the rights of Governments to act in the best interests of their peoples. That is why there has been so much resistance and uproar from civil society organisations and trade unions alike.

It is ironic that, just as we are told we need to leave the EU to regain control of our laws and how they are interpreted in the courts, Parliament’s ability to legislate in the public interest is being curtailed by negative lists and regulatory chill and by the establishment of a supranational courts system where foreign businesses are given superior rights to our own domestic companies and can tell our Government what they can and cannot do if they are not to sue us for taking sensible public policy decisions to protect the public against new and emerging dangers.

Similar concerns extend to the labour rights provisions of CETA. One study forecast that 10,000 jobs could be lost as a direct consequence of CETA. The threat to European jobs—[Interruption.]