I have never contacted my MP about a personal difficulty, but I emailed him twice recently, about TTIP and Iraq. He replies in a reasonable fashion, with standard paragraphs put together by an assistant.
My Tory father used to bemoan “ratchet socialism”: under each Labour government more power would be arrogated to the State, and Conservatives would not undo it. TTIP seems to ensure ratchet capitalism. A Tory government could put health services out to tender. A Labour government could not then bring those services back into State provision without opening itself up to claims to compensation under Investor-State Dispute Settlement. It would be a restraint of trade legally indistinguishable from nationalising the Suez Canal. The UK government will not seek to exclude health services from the scope of TTIP.
The TUC wants to exclude ISDS from the treaty. Frances O’Grady’s inclusion of this possibility in a consultation exercise is not such a great achievement as she suggests.
Dispute settlement procedures are the wrong target. Without them, a treaty becomes a pious hope, broken with impunity. The previous Labour government in Australia under Julia Gillard promised to exclude ISDS from future trade agreements, but this carries risk to Australian commerce as well: If Australian businesses are concerned about sovereign risk in Australian trading partner countries, they will need to make their own assessments about whether they want to commit to investing in those countries.
That Labour government also promised the Government will not support provisions in trade agreements that constrain our ability to regulate legitimately on social, environmental or other similar important public policy matters. Such as plain packaging of cigarettes, a social policy matter. Philip Morris Asia argues that the Australian law is in breach of its intellectual property rights. Was it foreseeable that such a challenge could be made to a public health initiative?
Though the case started in 2011, it is not yet resolved. Pleadings, submissions and evidence are kept confidential on the orders of the Singapore tribunal. Justice will not be seen to be done.
What does Mr Sawford say? “I am worried that ISDS would give corporations the power to sue our government if they thought that a national law would hurt their profits.” What sort of national law? Is this a treaty which would allow no restraint of trade at all? In the EU, a “single market”, there is a great deal of restraint of trade: Champagne must be made in Champagne, and Melton Mowbray pork pies in Melton Mowbray. In the EU, there are procedures for such restraint across the whole market. The parties seek to bridge the gap between their respective approaches: perhaps this is the high water mark of such restraint, and the US will veto any further law.
Might there be such procedures under TTIP? The State of Play document from the Commission does not tell me. On most provisions, including dispute settlement, the parties are still negotiating.
My MP’s letter echoes concerns about TTIP without helping me understand what it might do. This document from the EU says it is Wonderful. Should I trust it?