A trade deal with Trump cannot cross these 10 red lines
19 November 2019
The dangers of a US trade deal to the NHS has featured prominently in the general election campaign so far. But the threats don’t stop there. A trade deal with Trump would also be damaging to our food and farming standards, our public services, our labour and social rights as well as our ability to tackle the climate emergency. And to top it all off, parliament has no powers to mandate, scrutinise and vote on a toxic trade deal with Trump. So we have joined forces with the Trade Justice Movement as well as other civil society organisations to draw up our red lines for a US trade deal and urge all election candidates to join us in saying that a US trade deal must not cross the following red lines.
A trade deal must not:
1. Block positive action on the environment or undermine existing standard
A US trade deal must not prevent action on climate change, put downward pressure on the UK’s environmental regulations or restrict the Government’s ability to raise standards and introduce measures to address the climate crisis, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss. The deal must be assessed against its contribution to achieving climate and environmental goals. The precautionary principle and other existing EU safeguards must be maintained as part of the right to regulate. Provisions including those on local content, subsidies, intellectual property and agriculture should only be included if it can be demonstrated that they will not hinder progress in these crucially important areas. Regulatory cooperation must not be used to lower standards or give privileged access to corporations.
2. Undermine food standards
A US trade deal must not allow the import of food products which do not meet the UK’s standards including on farming, public health, animal welfare, use of antibiotics and product safety. A deal must not risk downward pressure on UK standards or restrict the Government’s ability to raise standards and introduce new regulations.
3. Threaten public health or the NHS
The NHS must not be included in a US trade agreement, directly or indirectly, including through measures which lock in or extend existing privatisation and contracting out. A US deal must not undermine access to medicines through weakening price regulation schemes and strengthening intellectual property rights and must not undermine the Government’s ability to regulate private ownership of patient data. Public health measures such as those to tackle smoking or obesity must not be put at risk as a result of a trade deal.
4. Threaten public services
A US deal must not lock-in privatisation of public services. A positive list must be used, with effective carve-outs for public services and ratchet clauses must be excluded. Provisions on services must pay particular attention to gender equality: because women form a significant percentage of workers in many public services, as well as relying more heavily on services because of their disproportionate share of unpaid care work, such privatisation can have a particularly detrimental impact for them and undermine efforts to achieve gender equality.
5. Undermine labour and social rights
Impact assessments for TTIP (the proposed EU-US deal) showed a high risk of job losses and downward pressure on wages. Existing trade deals contain no binding or enforceable provisions to ensure they do not have negative consequences for labour and social rights. In a US deal this could lead to downward pressure on UK standards. A US deal must not undermine the UK’s labour rights, but should be designed to increase good quality jobs and real wages, and to uphold and promote labour rights. Other social rights, including gender equality, discrimination law, political liberties and human rights must also not be undermined.
6. Be passed without democratic scrutiny and consent
The government must urgently bring forward primary legislation setting out clear and binding processes for the involvement of the public, civil society and Parliament in trade negotiations. This must include thorough impact assessments, in both the UK and trading partner countries, covering social, environmental and human rights factors as well as GDP impacts, a role for Parliament and devolved administrations in setting the negotiating mandate, transparency during negotiations, a vote for Parliament on the final deal and mechanisms for regular review of implemented trade deals.
7. Limit online regulation and undermine digital rights
A digital chapter in a US trade deal could weaken existing data protection laws and limit the Government’s ability to regulate technology firms and make important policy decisions about the privacy, safety and accountability of digital systems. The challenges associated with e-commerce, artificial intelligence and algorithms are only just beginning to be understood. In this context, governments must retain the ability to shape their policies to respond to increased understanding and new developments in the digital arena.
8. Undermine sustainable development and international commitments
A US trade deal must not undermine the UK’s international commitments, including to sustainable development as set out in the Sustainable Development Goals, and its obligations under the United Nations, International Labour Organisation and World Health Organisation. The UK should design its trade policy to actively support these obligations and, in particular, to have positive benefits for developing countries. In the context of a deal with the US, this means paying particular attention to the potential erosion of preferences and to avoid creating a precedent that could limit the ability of countries to work more closely together regionally and to design and implement policies in the public interest.
9. Include harmful corporate courts
A US trade deal must not include Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms, which would allow international investors to sue the UK Government for introducing policies that corporations believe could harm their profits. ISDS has historically been used to challenge important environmental, health and labour legislation, and it has no place in UK trade policy.
10. Limit public procurement strategy
A US trade deal must not limit national and local government’s ability to use public procurement to support local economies and jobs, kickstart a climate transition or enable other public policy objectives such as healthy eating in schools and hospitals. Government procurement is an important tool for helping to achieve social and environmental ambitions.
Baby Milk Action
Christians on the Left
The Equality Trust
Friends of the Earth
Global Justice Now
Health Equalities Group
Keep Our NHS Public
New Economics Foundation
Open Rights Group
Trade Justice Movement
UNISON (after 12 Dec)
War On Want
We Own It