Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP writes…An EU-US trade deal would be good for Europe and for Britain

Today the European Parliament gave the go-ahead to negotiations for an ambitious comprehensive EU-US ‘transatlantic trade and investment partnership’ agreement – or T-TIP in the jargon. The EU and US combined account for over half the global economy, making this by far the biggest free-trade agreement in history. Existing protectionist restrictions in America as well as in Europe mean that the full potential of our economic relationship is not realised. While the abolition of remaining tariffs on goods will bring worthwhile gains, the greatest benefits will be in removal of non-tariff barriers to achieve a much more integrated transatlantic marketplace. Tearing down such barriers could boost joint economic output by tens if not hundreds of €billions annually.

This is therefore a unique opportunity to stimulate growth and jobs and contribute to the Liberal Democrats’ key objective of building a stronger economy in a fairer society. As Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s US Delegation, I will be pushing for a speedy conclusion of negotiations so we can reap the benefits as soon as possible. There is currently enough momentum on both sides of the Atlantic to see this deal signed off within the next few years, and we must not let this great opportunity pass.

After the EU, the US is the biggest source of investment in the UK. American firms account for a quarter of overseas investment in Britain and support an estimated one million British jobs. One of the major attractions for US investors is our continued membership of the EU, which makes Britain an important gateway to the rest of the single market. It is worth remembering that more US companies set up their European headquarters in the UK than anywhere else in the EU. David Cameron in Washington last week acknowledged that it was only as part of the EU that the UK could get this prize of a transatlantic deal, pointedly disavowing those in his own party who say we can build important trade ties on our own. President Obama has repeatedly made clear that the US also values our role as a liberal-minded and influential EU member, but that our special relationship will no longer be special if the clamour for the exit from Tory Europhobes and UKIP is successful.

This week leading business figures, including Richard Branson, made a strong economic case for why Britain should remain an EU member. They pointed out that EU membership is worth up to £3500 to each household, and could be worth far more if we focus on achieving reforms and delivering a more competitive Europe. The TTIP alone would be worth as much as £10 billion to the UK economy, the equivalent of almost £400 per household. Liberal Democrats have already delivered a £600 tax cut to more than 20 million people. We now want to focus on creating jobs, getting the economy moving again and putting more money into people’s pockets, not on endless navel-gazing about our relationship with Europe.

* Sarah Ludford is London MEP and the Liberal Democrat European spokeswoman on justice & human rights. She is a leading member of the European Parliament's civil liberties, justice & home affairs committee.

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14 Comments

  • mike cobley 23rd May '13 - 1:49pm

    Such utter nonsense. This proposed trade treaty will lay Britain open to all manner of plunder and pillage by rapacious corporate interests the world over. In the modern era, America has become an enabling tool for transnational corporations, global financial institutions and the stateless uberrich. For some idea of where a EU-US deal will lead us, take a look at the consequences which NAFTA had for ordinary people in Mexico. Google the word maquiladora.

  • @mike colby ‘the stateless uberrich’?

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd May '13 - 2:49pm

    I applaud the respect given to the reader in this article. Yes, I am confident this would be good for Europe, Britain and the US.

    This is the sort of EU promotion we want, not exaggeration or scaremongering about how it would be a disaster if we left the EU, and smearing others who dare question our relationship with the EU.

  • This is a very welcome and important initiative, though I don’t doubt the difficulty it faces in overcoming protectionist forces on both sides of the Atlantic.

    It is good to emphasise the importance of the EU in promoting trade worldwide as well as in Europe, and challenge the UKIP fantasy that they can deliver big projects like this with little to put on the table.

  • Alex Macfie 23rd May '13 - 7:38pm

    Unfortunately, there is a serious, legitimate point behind Mike Cobley’s hyperbole, namely the use of trade agreements for policy laundering. I support the principle of this trade agreement, but we must be on our guard against the use of T-TIP (is this the 3rd acronym for the agreement; first it was TAFTA, then I’m sure there was another acronym) to do something like impose ACTA-like intellectual property laws or set in stone the already over-restrictive DMCA-like laws. And I don’t just mean US negotiators doing this: EU negotiators also need to be put under scrutiny. [I find seriously questionable the idea that IP law belongs in trade agreement anyway.] Our MEPs should give EU negotiators clear instructions to prevent this from happening, and be prepared to reject any policy-laundered agreement.

  • Imagine a Britain where you could put Solar PV panels on your home for £4000 instead of the average £10,000. That would be a Britain outside the EU.
    Why? Because the EU put draconian import tariffs on PV panels from China.
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-21/eu-panel-penalties-to-hurt-solar-firms-from-china-to-u-k.html
    /sarc on/ ~ Expensive solar energy – One of the many benefits of EU membership ~ /sarc off/

  • John Dunn,

    the US has introduced anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese Solar Panels as well <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/18/business/energy-environment/us-slaps-tariffs-on-chinese-solar-panels.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 U.S. Slaps High Tariffs on Chinese Solar Panels.

    When a state uses all forms of national and local subsidies and other governmental support to quickly transfer jobs, supply chains, intellectual property and wealth from global manufacturers to its own domestic producers, then some form of protection is required. Consumer prices may be lowered initially but once a single country has effectively destroyed all international competition then the usual problems of monopoly will begin to resurface.

  • @ Joe Bourke
    So using Ed Davey’s , Green Deal, we can now get a ‘loan’ from the energy companies, and pay through the nose, (+ interest), to the tune of £10,000 for Solar panels that will NEVER recoup their original expense. But we could have got the same panels on our roof, producing the same energy for £4000, were it not for the EU (and USA), jointly suppressing global trade and ensuring expensive energy for everyone.
    Don’t you just love those, well thought through, Trade deals, that deny folk cheaper solar energy,?.. but hey,…at least the plebs are in debt servitude, and EU bureaucrats are happy !

  • the supposed “great economic benefits” are simply not true. these claims come from the EU commission report (can be found at: http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2013/march/tradoc_150737.pdf) which states:

    “An ambitious and comprehensive transatlantic trade and investment agreement could bring significant economic gains as a whole for the EU (€119 billion a year) and US (€95 billion a year). This translates to an extra €545 in disposable income each year for a family of 4 in the EU, on average.”

    so in the best case scenario (one that succeeds in being “ambitious and comprehensive”), a family gets an extra 545 euros, which is what? £500 per family of 4 per year, which is £125 per person per year, which is about 35p per day. not what i would call a great economic benefit! as for what we may have to sacrifice for this deal, well, the lobbyists are definitely calling for a lowering of standards – sorry i mean “deregulation” and “cutting of red tape” – in terms of environmental safeguards, food safety, workers’ rights, financial regulation, loss of national sovereignty through the ISDS clauses, more public services contracts up for privatisation through the TTIP chapters on public procurement.

    NAFTA was supposed to bring jobs aplenty too, but if you take the time to look at the figures or read the articles, it has only done the opposite. TTIP is NAFTA on steroids. beware of empty promises. this deal has very little to do with trade…

  • John B Dick 5th Apr '14 - 1:49pm

    “Protectionist forces”? protecting or rather extending the opportunities for the City of London to exploit the rest of us.

    We will get GM fed hormone beef with levels of pesticides and antibiotics currently unacceptable in to Europeans. Your local butcher will go bust as will beef producers in former Liberal strongholds in the Highlands. If not grazed, the land will return to scrub and be near worthless.

    The “living agreement” will continue to allow fundamentalist free-traders to chip away at protected designations (Scotch Beef) and subsidies (LFA) as “irritants to trade”.

    Sure, big capital in London may get some benefit from legal and accountancy fees for privatising the public sector, but at a net cost to most of the rest of us. They would not be interested in trivial overall gains were it not that they were unevenly distributed.

    For generations Liberals in the North of Scotland made slow but incremental progress through localism, hard work and dedication. With an insouciance towards Highland casualties reminiscent of WW1 generals the London-focused leadership trashed the good work of decades by not protecting the Northern troops. They did not realise that much of the product of localism was to garner the votes of thousands who were repelled from voting Labour or Conservative because of the ignorance of and irrelevance to rural areas of the two parties of government.

    Now these negative voters have decided that the SNP are best buy for the anti-Con (Labour is in the Central Belt). The fact that the Labour vote overall held up has given Labour false comfort, having lost what seatless votes they had and gained nothing in the rural areas, Elsewhere ex-SLD votes did not do Labour much good in seats they already held comfortably .

    Labour needs to think hard to cultivate these new voters for they have no loyalty to party or principle. The fact that they are unenthused by the SNP’s flagship policy shows that they are using the SNP to punish the other parties. They enjoyed that in the SP elections, and they will do it again in the UK elections even if they have just voted against independence.

    Negative voters are using the SNP to punish UK Libdems.

    I have never heard the SNP complain about being used in this way.

  • Geoff Powers 20th May '14 - 6:15pm

    This proposal is a classic ‘pig in a poke’. It sounds great for big business, but what does it imply for those that work for big business, and the man in the street? The idea is worth investigating, but the devil will be very much in the detail. I do not like the idea of potentially multi-national business interests being empowered to legally pursue national governments for non-compliance with their business interests. I support our party for its internationalism, but we must proceed carefully with this one!

  • Philippa Sutton 21st May '14 - 2:00am

    I think that you have just lost my vote in the next election. We know that Big Tobacco has already tried to use similar laws elsewhere to get the Australian courts to force their government to remove from anything about cigarette packages which might harm Big Tobacco’s profits.

    We know that parts of the NHS now have to put out to tender and private firms be allowed to bid for them. Under this law we could find chunks of our healthcare handed over the US corporations to run for profit.

    We don’t want to see our national parks handed over to mining companies because the government has no right to preserve public assets to the detriment of the bottom line.

    Sharing sovereignty with Europe is one thing. Handing it over to big multi-nationals is entirely different.

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