Advice line: Say no TTIP

The NHS and public health are under threat from a new international treaty, as Jill Barker explains.

It is extremely complex and may appear very distant, but a new international treaty currently being negotiated between the EU and the US is an issue that all CSP members should take an interest in.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) represents a real threat to health and public services in the UK. Also at risk are hard- won work rights, the environment and the state’s ability to legislate in the public interest. TTIP aims to liberalise the trade and investment in goods and services, including public services, between the EU and US. Talks on the TTIP started in July 2013 and negotiators – the EU Commission and the US government – hope that the final text can be agreed before the end of 2015, with implementation starting from then.

Now a campaign led in the UK by the TUCand a range of organisations is raising hopes that the dangerous deal will be scuppered. A key concern is the threat to the NHS: despite campaigners’ efforts, the government has not provided adequate assurances that it will be exempt. Unless it is, the pact could ease the entry into the NHS ‘market’ of large, profit-seeking US companies, undermining efforts to provide integrated, high-quality care.

There is a further danger that any subsequent government making legitimate public policy decisions – for example repealing the Health and Social Care Act – could be challenged by large US companies arguing that their investments have been negatively affected. Corporations could obtain powers to bypass domestic courts and challenge decisions made by democratically elected governments and other public bodies. Such powers have already been used in Slovakia against plans to bring health insurance back into the public sector, and in Australia over plain cigarette packaging. Already pressure by the campaign has helped secure the beginnings of a public debate on and force the EU Commission to lift some of secrecy around the talks. TTIP was debated at the CSP’s annual representative conference in March and in September the CSP joined a call at TUC Congress for negotiations to be scrapped. TTIP affects our families, our patients and our communities. Help secure a million signatures for a Europe-wide petition and press your MPs and MEPs to take a stand against TTIP.

  • For more information, see here.
Jill Barker is chair of CSP’s industrial relations committee

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