Tag Archives: ttip

Liberal Democrats for Free Trade

Vince Cable at Social Liberal Forum conference 19th July 2014 - photo by Paul Walter

In my view, trade benefits all countries. It spreads technology and good practice; it stimulates competition and rejuvenates economies.

Vince Cable, less than six months after being appointed Business Secretary, said that back in 2010 as he welcomed the EU-South Korea trade agreement.

Liberal Democrats should loud and proud make the case for Free Trade.

It ought to be inconceivable that we have to have this argument again.

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LibLink: Vince Cable makes the case for TTIP and free trade

Vince Cable, who was involved in negotiations over the proposed EU-US trade deal, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, in his role as business secretary, has been writing about the issue, and that of free trade more generally.

Vince first summarises the rationale for TTIP:

The European Commission has prioritised a bilateral agreement with the USA: TTIP, which is proving a source of unexpected controversy, although negotiations are still at an early stage. The underlying objective is to apply, on a transatlantic basis, the same approach that helped to create the EU Single Market. Since, as within the EU, tariffs and quotas are no longer a major issue the emphasis has been on preventing differences in standards, mainly technical, acting as a barrier to trade. There are, for example, different specifications for seatbelt design and testing that make it difficult to export in both directions. In effect, a different production line is required to sell into the USA, which can be prohibitive, especially for low volume manufacturers.

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What they don’t tell you about TTIP

Countless articles, emails and campaigns have expressed anger about TTIP. This is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which would cover over 800 million people in the EU and US, as well as helping determine the shape of future agreements the world over. There are numerous concerns – some entirely misguided, some merely exaggerated – and from reading the literature of campaign groups like 38 Degrees it might be hard to know whether there are any benefits at all from this trade deal. So supporters of free trade need to straightforwardly spell out some of TTIP’s advantages.

In particular, lost among the scaremongering and obscure debates has been the very foundation of TTIP: an abolition of almost all the remaining import and export tariffs between the US and EU. It’s true, as both supporters and opponents of TTIP say, that tariffs are only a part of the deal: harmonising regulations (without lowering standards) is now often more important. But when the entire process is under attack, the scrapping of tariffs should not be glossed over. I hope it’s not too insulting to suggest that many of those attacking TTIP or signing petitions (not to mention those who haven’t heard of TTIP) may have no idea that it includes the scrapping of import and export tariffs.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 69 Comments

TTIP update: A Liberal in charge, and a new investor dispute proposal

Container Ship tradeYou can catch up with my previous pieces on TTIP here:

A new face at the negotiating table

It’s a few months since I last wrote here about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a proposed trade and investment agreement currently being negotiated between the European Union and United States. It is Liberal Democrat party policy to support TTIP, so it is worth keeping up with developments in the negotiations.

Since my first post in July 2014, one of the most significant changes has been the replacement in November 2014 of Karel De Gucht as European Commissioner for Trade by Cecilia Malmström.

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Bearder: Liberals must save the EU-US trade agreement, but we must ditch ISDS to do so

Writing for politics.co.uk, Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder writes a strong defence of the proposed free trade agreement between the US and EU, but takes the view that the now much-maligned Investor State Dispute Settlement proposal (which in any event has been temporarily abandoned) must be replaced with a much more accountable form of dispute resolution:

A trade deal with the US has the potential to bring major benefits to the UK economy. Currently the US is the biggest export destination for UK small businesses, with over half of all small exporting firms doing business there. But barriers to trade between the EU and the US, such as tariffs or different standards and regulations, can make it difficult for small companies to expand their businesses across the Atlantic.

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged | 18 Comments

Opinion: Threat to Europe? Countering the TTIP scaremongering

It was with a certain degree of shock that on Thursday 2 April, I read the opinion article “We should be alert to this threat to Europe!“. How was it possible that the concerns expressed in it about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – which echo what many segments of Europe’s radical left have been peddling – could be given credibility from within one of Europe’s most influential liberal parties? After some consideration, I concluded that clearly the anti-TTIP propaganda war is proving to be very successful and that there is still much work to do to counter those arguments.

Here are a number of facts that all Liberal Democrats should be aware of and should readily share whenever the subject arises, regarding in particular transparency, public services, and democratic rights of public authorities:

Transparency

The media and the public rarely show much interest in highly technical trade negotiations. Clearly, however, times have changed. The EU Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, a Swedish liberal and one of the most respected politicians in Brussels has recognised that there is a public demand for greater openness. Since taking office in November 2014, she has taken steps to address this demand, such that only weeks later, on 29 January 2015, the spokersperson on TTIP for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) in the European Parliament, Marietje Schaake, congratulated Commissioner Malmström for “taking the concerns of citizens seriously” after it was announced that transparency rules would apply to the controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS). Furthermore, only a few days ago, on 23 March 2015 the European Ombudsman commended the European Commission for the progress made.

Public Services

On 20 March 2015, Commissioner Malmström and the US Trade Representative, published a Joint Statement on Public Services. Anyone concerned about the NHS, environmental policies, public procurement, or the democratic freedoms of public authorities in Europe, should read it. Here’s an extract:

Posted in Op-eds | 72 Comments

Opinion: We should be alert to this threat to Europe!

There’s a new acronym doing the rounds, which I think is a vicious wolf in sheep’s clothing. And I fear the party may have fallen for the sheep’s clothing and not seen the wolf.

The acronym is TTIP. It stands for Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which sounds all well and good. And if all it’s doing is promoting free trade between Europe and America, fair enough. But the question we should all be asking is: at what cost?

TTIP has made its way into the election campaign solely as an adjunct to the NHS debate. There are fears that the TTIP agreement – still being negotiated (in secret) by EU and US trade negotiators – will threaten the state funding of medical services. Lib Dem candidates like me are advised by the party’s Policy Response unit to say that Vince Cable has been given several assurances that neither our ability to run the NHS nor our ability to protect the environment will be threatened.

But the threat is bigger than that. A few days ago, Germany’s environment agency UBA expressed serious concern that the EU’s position on the emerging TTIP could weaken environmental protection standards in Europe. It says Europe’s current proposals would breach the democratic principles at the heart of the EU by giving US companies the right to information about EU legislation before the European Parliament or European civil society groups get to hear about it. Lib Dems should be alarmed at this.

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Opinion: Thoughts on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Protocol (TTIP)

While negotiations are continuing on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Protocol (TTIP) it is hard to know whether the outcome will be good or bad. As far as I can see, there are arguments for and against it, so I am feeling the need to keep an open mind.

The arguments in favour boil down to increased trade and economic stability. This is important because the growth of China, India and Brazil will put pressure on Europe and America: at 1.37Bn people, China has an appreciably larger population than the EU (500 million) and USA (320 million) together. The collapse of the Doha trade talks also increase the risk of tarifs and trade barriers between the EU and USA. The hope is that, at the very least, TTIP will counteract this, and at best, it will enhance our economic stability and competitiveness by improving ties between the EU and USA. There are predictions that this will boost the British economy by between four and ten billion pounds annually.

The European commission has been suggesting that many of the stories circulating about TTIP are exaggerated or wrong and is keen to reassure people that European concerns around health. Safety, rights at work, privacy, financial security and environment will be protected. Their information on this starts here.

Posted in Op-eds | 32 Comments

Anti-TTIP protestors reach #ldconf. A reminder of why they are wrong

At a previous party conference back in the autumn of 2013, Lib Dem party members voted overwhelmingly for a motion committing the party to wholeheartedly supporting the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

As we all (particularly parliamentary candidates, thanks to 38 Degrees) know, a massive campaign has appeared since then opposing the agreement, ostensibly over concerns that the NHS will somehow be threatened. Protestors were out in force outside the conference centre here in Liverpool, and given the number of members I saw signing the petition they were handing around, I thought it might be useful to set out again why those protestors are so wrong, not just in their opinion but on the facts.

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Opinion: TTIP: a taxpayer funded safety net for the super-rich

Few things are more complicated and opaque than the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade deal being hammered out between the EU and the USA. It has been criticized by activists and journalists such as George Monbiot, but Vince Cable asserts there is nothing to worry about. Who is right?

When things get complicated, follow the money. Fortunately we now have a money bloodhound. The economist Thomas Piketty has spent a decade or more producing a huge scholarly work which reveals where the money is. His answer is simple: unless active measures are taken an ever larger proportion ends up in the hands of the already very rich. TTIP will make this even worse.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 57 Comments

TTIP and the NHS: Separating fact from fiction

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a proposed agreement currently being negotiated between the European Union and United States. If agreed it will make it easier for companies and individuals across all EU member states and America to trade with one another, as well as encouraging greater bilateral investment.

I wrote generally about TTIP on LDV back in July, given that it is party policy to support the agreement. However, even at that point a concerted campaign had begun linking TTIP to the supposed privatisation of the National Health Service, with union leaders, campaigning websites and politicians calling either for TTIP to be abandoned or for special safeguards to be included.

This piece, therefore, addresses that issue in some detail.

Investor State Dispute Settlement

The “investment” part of TTIP seeks to increase the amount of foreign direct investment that flows between EU member states and the US. In other words, the amount of money that is spent establishing or expanding businesses or on other projects on which a monetary return is expected.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 40 Comments

Opinion: TTIP and the inversion of the Free Trade debate

The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership provides an interesting case study as to how the very meaning of ‘Free Trade’ is changing. The treaty itself is on the rocks with increasing opposition from France and Germany alongside a powerful combination of unions and anti-globalisation advocacy groups. Nothing about that is particularly unusual but a crucial difference is the arguments these groups are making. For the first time they are talking about consumers.

Traditionally trade deals meant hitting producers to help consumers with the abolition of tariffs, subsidies and protectionist legislation. Although there is an element of this in the TTIP the majority of it is actually about the harmonization of consumer standards and it is this which flips the traditional free trade debate so firmly on its head.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 49 Comments

Opinion: TTIP: What could possibly go wrong?

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is an agreement currently being negotiated between the EU and the USA to allow for freer trade between the two. We received an upbeat assessment of its progress and potential from Nick Thornsby a couple of weeks ago. It is currently Liberal Democrat policy to support it, but I have serious reservations about whether we are doing either liberalism or democracy any favours in this instance.

A trade agreement that reduced barriers and increased access to markets, thus lowering prices for customers, and increasing quality would be a great thing. However, this is not …

Posted in News | Also tagged | 33 Comments

TTIP — the US-EU trade deal. What is it, and where is it up to?

Container Ship tradeAt last year’s autumn conference, the Lib Dems pledged to support a new trade agreement between the European Union and the United States — known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The motion, ‘Strengthening the UK Economy’ (pdf), called on the coalition to:

Increase trading opportunities by working in the EU to ensure that the success of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, doing everything possible to revive the World Trade Organisation led Doha Development Round and further integrating the EU services market.

Since then there has been significant …

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 28 Comments
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