Our response to Holyrood’s TTIP report

Our response to Holyrood’s TTIP report

Date: 17 March 2015

Trade campaigners from Global Justice Now today welcomed the Scottish Parliament’s European and External Relations committee report’s criticism of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) but stressed the need for the Scottish Government to take a stronger position of opposition to TTIP in order to protect democracy, public services and the environment.

The Committee’s report, which comes after a three month inquiry into the EU-US mega trade deal, makes three key recommendations:

  1. That disputes between trans-national corporations and governments be resolved through national legal systems and not the ‘investor state dispute settlement’ (ISDS) mechanism currently being proposed for TTIP, which would effectively be a parallel legal system.
  2. That regulatory standards in important areas such as the environment, food production and quality, and animal husbandry not be negatively impacted by TTIP.
  3. That public services in Scotland be protected from negative impacts of TTIP.

The committee also noted reservations about “some of the assumptions relating to economic growth that have been used in support of the agreement” and “the lack of knowledge, understanding or engagement of some business organisations in Scotland on TTIP”.

Responding to the report, Liz Murray, head of Scottish campaigns for Global Justice Now commented:

“It’s encouraging to see that the committee has taken on board the widespread public concern that TTIP threatens hard won laws to protect the environment, workers and food, as well as public services.  It’s obvious that having secret courts that would allow transnational companies to sue the Scottish government over legislation designed to protect the public and the environment is an assault on democracy, and it’s good that the report recognizes that.

“TTIP is more than just a trade agreement – it’s an unprecedented transfer of power from democratically elected governments to transnational corporations. It’s a threat to the sovereignty of the Scottish government.  And while it‘s welcome that the committee has voiced serious concerns, there needs to be a strong and vocal opposition to the whole of TTIP from the Scottish government in order to safeguard democracy, the environment and vital public services.”

Global Justice Now was one of a number of organisations, including trades unions, environmental groups and business associations who gave evidence to the inquiry.  Global Justice Now’s evidence to the committee on TTIP highlighted some of the key risks for Scotland from the trade deal:

  1. Were the Scottish government to pass or improve legislation in a way that US transnational corporations deemed a barrier to free trade and a threat to their current or future profits, then it could be sued under the investor state dispute mechanism (ISDS) – a parallel legal system – in TTIP.  Examples of such legislation could include tobacco and alcohol control and climate change legislation.
  2. Legislation in areas devolved to the Scottish parliament, such as environment, food safety, health and workers rights could be deemed barriers to trade and enter a ‘race to the bottom’ under the ‘regulatory harmonisation’ rules in TTIP.
  3. Any aspect of Scottish public services that becomes privatised would be open to tender by US trans-nationals and subject to legal challenge if the Scottish government tried to bring them back into public hands.  This has already happened in Slovakia under a bilateral investment agreement.

In its evidence to the EER committee, Global Justice Now also challenged the predictions for jobs and economic growth resulting from TTIP being made by the European Commission, citing evidence from a peer reviewed study last year that showed possible job losses rather than gains.  Scottish Enterprise themselves admitted, while giving evidence to the Committee, that they had not done any economic analysis of who the winners and losers in Scottish business might be.  The CBI made a similar admission on UK business in its evidence to an earlier inquiry by the BIS committee at Westminster.  And yet both organisations have publicly supported TTIP.

Photo credit: Polly Tikkle Productions