Jill Evans explains why she is campaigning against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
Awareness of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP for short, has been growing in the past year. In the last few weeks, I have spoken at a conference organised by the Royal College of Nursing as well as supporting Plaid Cymru members across Wales to organise their own ‘Day of Action’ on TTIP. I have been contacted by over six thousand constituents asking me to oppose it. Why? Because it is one of the most important issues facing us today.
TTIP is a treaty, being negotiated behind closed doors on behalf of the 28 member states of the European Union and the United States of America. It is being promoted as a ‘free trade treaty’. After all, at a time where a neo-liberal and capitalist agenda is being touted as the solution to all problems, who would oppose free trade.
Well, an awful lot of us do. TTIP is clearly bad, not just for Wales, but for Europe. That is why Plaid Cymru will be campaigning to remain in the EU and also campaigning to stop TTIP. The two go hand in hand.
There are concerns about what’s called the TTIP Investor State Dispute Mechanism to create ‘secret courts’ in which big companies can take action against democratically elected governments for taking action that might endanger their profits. These actions could range from increasing workers’ wages, setting carbon emission limits or ensuring that services are provided in both our national languages. Imagine Wales enforcing a ban on fracking and then being taken to court to pay for a company’s loss of future profits. Almost unbelievable, but it’s being threatened in Quebec under similar principles. What those in power see as ‘’barriers’’ to trade, we would see as essential elements of Social Europe and sustainable communities.
Food standards and welfare are affected. We know that our farmers and agriculture in Wales have high quality standards, and we have the European quality designations to prove it for Welsh beef and Welsh lamb amongst others. In contrast, ‘free trade’ with the USA would mean driving down standards, mass-producing lower quality food.
A further worry is that our National Health Service will be damaged by this treaty. As the MEP for Wales I have worked to ensure that public services are not included in TTIP. However, there are concerns that multinational private sector companies will seek to exploit loopholes in the treaty to get access to lucrative health contracts, lobbying to get their products on the recommended prescription lists or hiking up drug prices so that we can’t afford the healthcare that we now rely upon.
The list of nasties potentially lurking in TTIP makes it strange that some politicians and political parties are supporting it, but support it they do. For Plaid Cymru, losing democracy and worsening public service standards far outweigh empty promises of profits and job creation.
There are some who are using TTIP as the reason for voting to leave the European Union. This is a red herring. TTIP is a policy being pushed by governments, not by ‘Europe’. The Conservatives support TTIP as it stands, so their government would pursue the same goals irrespective of our membership of the European Union. (The UK is one of the main drivers of TTIP.) You won’t get rid of TTIP – or a similar agreement – by voting to leave the EU. In fact, working with like-minded people in the EU is the best way to oppose it.
Our membership of the EU is beneficial for Wales. It allows us to participate in a well-regulated single market in which one in seven Welsh jobs plays a role. The EU, unlike the UK, has an effective regional development strategy which provides solidarity and assistance for Wales through structural funds. Our farmers and agriculture sector benefit from a Common Agricultural Policy that would be scrapped or heavily limited in the hands of Westminster. That is even before we talk about the advantages of making joint decisions across the continent on how to tackle climate change, forcing multinational companies to end roaming costs on mobile phones and securing consumer rights.
Unfortunately, though, there are other good projects from the EU that we miss out on because the UK Government has no interest in taking part – and the Welsh Government has no intention of rocking the boat and takes its orders from Westminster. For example, the EU Solidarity Fund for natural disasters, the EDEN Tourism Project, the Youth Employment Initiative and the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, all of which could be used to improve Wales – if our governments backed them.
I am confident that Wales will vote to stay in Europe, but that is just the start. We want an effective Europe, more democratic and transparent. Let’s debate the importance of our public services and how we can improve them, through Wales and Europe. Let’s not be fooled by red herrings. There’s too much at stake.