“Leaked” TTIP document breaks post 8th negotiations round silence and opens door to critics

From left to right Dan Mullaney, Chief US Negotiator for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and Ignacio Garcia Bercero, Chief EU Negotiator for the TTIP, opened last month the eight round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks, in Brussels (EC Audiovisual Services, 06/02/2015)

From left to right Dan Mullaney, Chief US Negotiator for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and Ignacio Garcia Bercero, Chief EU Negotiator for the TTIP, opened last month the eight round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks, in Brussels (EC Audiovisual Services, 06/02/2015)

The 9th round of the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations is a bit more than one month and a half away, but the evolutions of the last days are certainly bound to influence and shape future talks. Last week a leaked draft of what the European Union would like to exclude from a new trade deal with the United States has been brought to light by the BBC. The document, which cane be read here, is described as “the initial offer of the European Union in the context of TTIP negotiations”, including a schedule of specific commitments and reservations.

The 103-page long document was put forward by EU negotiators in early February, before the most recent round of TTIP negotiations were held in Brussels, with the intent of reserving judgements on health services in the controversial agreement -health and privatisation risks being one of the hottest topic of the deal. The leaked document is now generating new debates though, especially in the UK, where the topic is particularly sensible and critics are wider than anywhere else. Anti-TTIP campaigners say a specific exemption for the NHS from trade liberalisation is still needed and that the document has basically shown tha the UK’s health system, NHS, is still included in the deal and, therefore, at risk.

Specifically on health the document states: “The EU reserves the right to adopt or maintain any measure with regard to the provision of all health services which receive public funding or State support in any form”. The European Commission had also previously and repeatedly said TTIP would not affect how NHS services are provided, either in Scotland or the rest of the UK. The UK trade minister, Lord Livingston, said last week that this text ensured “publicly funded health services are excluded”, but unionists don’t really share the same opinion.

During the month of January, Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey raised already his voice against TTIP in regards of health services. He said: “The people of this country do not believe it is right for the NHS to be part of a US trade deal”. He also recently added that Britain “expects David Cameron to stand up for the NHS and use his veto in Europe to get the NHS out of TTIP”.

The document generated a lot of debate in Scotland as well. The SNP published an official note on February 26 to highlight “concern” that a leaked draft of the European Union’s position on a new trade deal does not contain “explicit protection” of the NHS. Unite’s Scottish regional secretary Pat Rafferty said “real risks” remain, as the draft confirms the dispute resolution mechanism TTIP is expected to include, as reported by the BBC. Furthermore, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had previously called for the NHS to be specifically excluded from the deal and warned that the Scottish Government will “fight tooth and nail against any moves to privatise the NHS by the back door”.

Further, UK trade minister, Lord Livingston, responded last week affirming that the operation of the health services will not be affected by TTIP, and that the health services are basically not for sale. “The decisions about how they are operated will continue to be that for the democratically elected government of the individual area”, he underlined.

Despite those critics and reassurances being accurate and well-founded, the debate on TTIP’s main knots is open now more than ever. Still many critics are being addressed to the negotiators on this side of the Atlantic for an alleged lack of transparency, despite the efforts that have often been made to subvert this feeling. The leaked document indeed demonstrates that what negotiators and TTIP backers are saying since several months, that the EU is basically reserving the right to adopt or maintain any measure regarding health services, is beyond any doubt true. What does not make campaigners happy is that they want this once and for all out of the negotiations, being any risk of privatisation an uncountable risk for the European citizens according to them.

Leak or share?

Actually there’s no big news in the document, to be completely honest. Many parts of the EU services offer have been freely available on the internet since last May, like the letter from the EU Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, to Lord Livingston regarding NHS. It just would be interesting to ask ourselves whether or not the leak was totally fortuitous. It is practically clear that, at least for the majority of people which are generally well informed about the EU-US deal, the opposition to the gigantic trade agreement is largely due to a perceived poor communication on the issue. The document came out in a moment in which most of the people think the EU should do more to inform its citizens, and to demonstrate its commitment to preserve some high standards on health and food safety regulations, and this is a very communication-oriented coincidence.

But latest controversy on TTIP is not exclusively due to the dispute on NHS in England and Scotland. France too is in the midst of an intense political battle over the future of the trade agreement that promises to liberalise one-third of the trade on globe. The last, intense week saw also the controversial ISDS clause back under the spotlight. In a letter to French MEPs, seen by EurActiv France, the French Secretariat General for European Affairs (SGAE) has warned them to not go against ISDS.

Now SGAE is reportedly at odds with Secretary of State for Foreign Trade Mathias Fekl, who has repeatedly expressed his government’s opposition to the mechanism that would allow corporations to sue governments in tribunals if they believe they have been obstructed by local laws. French U-turn on ISDS is basically another hot question in the recent TTIP history, and another fact that deserves attention and investigation, especially ahead of the vote at the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee on May 6th.

What is entirely clear here is that recent evolutions are filling the gap left by a weak 8th round of negotiations, a few weeks ago, where a very few decisions were taken and poor communications followed.

And this should be mainly the reason reason the “TTIP leak” is happening, accidentally or not.

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