TTIP: 38 Degrees members meet Bill Cash MP

Here’s a blog by 38 Degrees member Linden Kaniewski, who lives in Stone constituency

Following on from the European Day of Action on TTIP, 38 Degrees members from Stone, Staffordshire organised a meeting with Bill Cash MP. We got about 15 minutes to pop some questions and to make our concerns known.

We got the ball rolling by handing Bill a report by the Austrian Foundation for Development Research which challenges the findings of the CEPR report commissioned by the EU. It argues that the potential economic benefits are very uncertain and rely upon assumptions such as continued full employment. Bill did not challenge the suggestion that the economic effect could be ten billion pounds either way.

He was, however, very keen to reassure us that he was concerned about TTIP and that he was fully aware of the issues involved. In fact he went to great lengths to explain to us how he was working closely with Lord Livingston, the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, who is taking part in the Lord’s Inquiry into TTIP. Apparently, Lord Livingston also has reservations but we were not told what these are.

On the topic of Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) he agreed with 38 Degrees members that the ability of foreign investors to be able to sue governments in secret courts was an “undeniable” threat to UK sovereignty. It’s interesting to note that Bill’s website has a section entitled ‘The accountability and sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament’. This is where Bill became passionate. He was unsure who he was accountable to in the ‘chain of command’ and was uncomfortable with the ‘behind closed doors’ negotiations that he said had already been scuppered by the leaked document, making a mockery of the argument for secret talks.

38 degrees members were also concerned that the EU was being pressurized by powerful corporations in the agriculture sector to bring standards into ‘harmonization’ with the US. Bill baulked at the idea of hormone treated beef but was less clear on how he proposed to ensure that standards were harmonized without the EU lowering theirs. It is worth noting that the U.S. government lodged complaints with the World Trade Organization targeting EU restrictions on GMOs and growth hormones and that the U.S. hopes to push for changes to labelling laws.

Our time was up rather quickly so we didn’t get chance to ask Bill whether the taxpayer may end up compensating corporations for loss of future profits. Nor did Bill get a chance to say what he thought about the nuclear company Vattenfall demanding 4.7 billion euros from the German government for predicted loss of profits after it decided to phase out nuclear power. It would have been interesting to discuss the case of gold mining firm Occidental suing the government of Ecuador for $1.77 billion after the latter changed its mind about mining in the rainforest. Or what about the Philip Norris tobacco company suing Australia over a change in its packaging laws? We didn’t even touch on the NHS and its inclusion or not in the Investor State Dispute Settlement clause.

U.S. Rep. for Florida, Alan Grayson, was allowed to see a copy of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an equivalent of TTIP, after mounting public pressure. He concluded that “This agreement hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests”. We just hope that Bill will discover all he needs to know via the Lord’s Inquiry just in case he isn’t allowed a peek at TTIP.