Keir Starmer constantly claims a hypothetical trade deal with the US will bring about a race to the bottom on workers rights and sell out our NHS.
The truth is the EU trade deal CETA is the real danger that sees corporations trumping Governments demanding access to our public service contracts with at the risk of being sued for loss of profit or for not complying and refusing contracts, much the same way as virgin care did recently over NHS contracts.
In November 2016, Virgin Care sued six Surrey clinical commissioning groups, NHS England and Surrey County Council after it lost out on an £82 million healthcare deal. The deal was awarded to a group of in-house NHS providers and a social enterprise.
The Labour Party said it was ‘scandalous’ that the NHS was forced to face legal action from Virgin Care and called for the Department of Health to disclose further details on the settlement. Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Health Secretary, said: ‘It is scandalous that NHS money is being wasted on fighting off legal bids from private companies.
With the EU trade deal CETA this will bring in corporate legislation that can be used to leverage contracts from the NHS bringing in an era of privatisation the likes the UK have never seen.
What is CETA?
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada is a highly ambitious trade agreement that aims to remove 99% of all tariffs on trade and increase corporations’ unconditional access to markets in the EU and Canada. As with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), CETA is promoted on the grounds that it will bring economic benefits. How these benefits are calculated depends on the assumptions that researchers make. Official projections are for minimal gain in Gross Domestic Profit (an increase the EU’s GDP growth by a little over 0.01 percent per year). Alternative projections dispute this and suggest net losses in GDP, as well as job losses, wage compression and net losses of government revenue
ISDS: The most toxic acronym in Europe.
ICS will allow multinational corporations with subsidiaries in Canada to by-pass domestic courts and sue EU national governments for changes in policy or regulations that impact on corporate profits. After provisional implementation, if member states refuse to ratify CETA, corporations can still bring ICS claims for three years.
CETA is a so-called ‘new generation trade deal’ that, besides removing most tariffs, will reduce regulation and therefore lessen governmental control over corporations. Areas covered by CETA include domestic regulation, public procurement (the process by which public authorities, such as government departments or local authorities, buy work, goods or services), an extensive array of services, and the mutual recognition of professional qualifications. a revised version of Investor-State Dispute Settlement.
ISDS: The devil in the trade deal
CETA will include the investment protection measure known as ‘Investor Court System‘ (ICS), differing in some respects from the infamous Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), although the right of corporations to by-pass domestic courts and challenge the decisions of elected governments remains intact. So too does the unfair advantage ICS gives to multinationals – domestic companies cannot make use of ICS. Both ISDS and ICS have met with strong criticism from civil society groups and others through negotiations (more on the inclusion of ICS in CETA later).
CETA marks the first time the EU has agreed to open up access to the service sectors of its member states on the basis of ‘negative listing’. Negative listing means that all services will be included in the treaty unless explicitly excluded, and this even covers new services that don’t exist now but may emerge in the future. Public services are not adequately protected: although there are some (narrow) exclusions, these are for public services “supplied in the exercise of governmental authority”, i.e services carried out “neither on a commercial basis nor in competition with one or more economic operators”. Because private companies are now involved in almost all traditional public sectors, exclusions for public services are effectively limited to core ‘sovereign’ functions like law-enforcement or the judiciary.
In addition, CETA’s negotiators have accepted demands from industry to liberalise (open up markets) and privatise public services, like the NHS, through ‘standstill’ and ‘ratchet’ mechanisms. These serve to lock the terms of the agreement and only allow further liberalisation and prohibit any reversals – even when past decisions have turned out to be failures. This could threaten the growing trend of taking back public services into public control (e.g water services in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and Hungary; energy grids in Germany and Finland; and transport services in the UK and France) in response to poor performance by private companies.
Even if public services are exempted from the agreement, they would not be immune from ICS, making regulations in public service sectors vulnerable to influence by all kinds of private investors.
Secret negotiations on CETA were completed in September 2014. It then went through a process of ‘legal scrubbing’ and translation into all the languages of the EU. In July 2016 it was decided that CETA would be a ‘mixed’ agreement (see below): this means that after ratification by the European Parliament it had to go to the individual parliaments of the EU member states for their agreement – a process that could take up to four years. However, much of the treaty can be ‘provisionally implemented’ before this.
All that Barry Gardiner mentions in any hypothetical trade deal with the US are already inbuilt into the EU trade deal CETA.
CETA and the NHS
CETA is very much about ‘liberalisation’ or opening up services to investment from international investors. If a member state does not exclude services in a trade agreement like CETA, it’s making an almost irreversible commitment to keeping those services permanently open to these investors. So, as CETA has been agreed by the EU Parliament while the UK is still a member of the EU, ICS will come into force if the treaty has been ratified by all the individual EU member states. This means that for some years to come, a future UK government planning to reverse privatisation of the NHS would risk being sued by any Canadian corporations that had invested in the NHS (see ‘CETA and Brexit’, below). The UK government could also be sued by other transnational health companies with subsidiaries based in Canada – it’s worth remembering that 80% of US companies operating in the EU also have bases in Canada.
Although the European Commission and UK government state that health services are exempted from CETA, there is concern that the definition of health services is too narrow and they will not be protected. And as mentioned above, CETA includes a ‘ratchet’ clause which locks in any move towards the privatisation of services, meaning that services cannot be returned to their position pre-CETA. Plus, because CETA uses the ‘negative list’ approach, only services actually listed in the agreement are clearly excluded from it. This means that new types of health services and medical technologies that might emerge in future – and that cannot be foreseen now – will not be excluded.
In addition, the kind of access that CETA gives to procuring goods and services on behalf of the government could restrict the UK government’s ability to support local and not-for-profit providers and lead to more NHS jobs being outsourced to private firms, where staff are often forced to do the same work with worse pay and working conditions. Apparently,
“In CETA, governments have already signed up several sectors to mandatory transatlantic competitive tendering when they want to purchase supplies and services – an effective means for privatisation by gradually transferring public services to for-profit providers”.
CETA’s chapter on labour rights is not enforceable, and so could undermine the rights of workers in public services like the NHS, as well as setting a precedent for TTIP V2, now being negotiated by the EU and US.
Price controls on goods such as medicines could be removed if these are seen as barriers to trade or to limit the profits of transnational corporations such as drug companies. This could have serious implications for the public purse.
Opening up long-term care to multinational investors could also lead to asset-stripping by financial investors (the cause of the collapse of Southern Cross in the UK, where a number of residential care homes had to close).
CETA and Brexit
As CETA has been ratified by the European Parliament – i.e. before the British exit from the EU has been negotiated – the UK is temporarily included in the deal. EU law and treaties will still apply to the UK until it has formally left the Union, a process that may take from two to five years. Investments made by Canadian corporations (or those multinationals with subsidiaries in Canada) between the implementation of CETA and the UK’s departure from the EU will continue to be protected by the investment protection measure, Investment Court System (ICS) for a further 20 years.
As mentioned above, the European Commission reluctantly decided that CETA has to be a ‘mixed’ agreement and so needs to come to EU member states’ parliaments for ratification. But it’s unclear how the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU will affect its role in the ratification of the treaty. For example, even supposing the UK had an effective way to veto the deal, it’s unclear whether its veto would be seen to have any legitimacy by the other EU member states.
Starmer needs to stop with the snake oil and tell the truth.
Starmer feels it is OK to peddle fear amongst the people of what ‘could be’ but neglects to tell of ‘what is’. Starmer in his enthusiasm to remain in the EU feels that project fear is a legitimate angle, he peddles snake oil on a UK-EU trade deal however the fact that the EU are conducting a EU-US trade deal right now escapes his mind or maybe he just feels we don’t need to know! After all it is a little confusing where he says the Tories will bring in TTIP when the EU where the ones that first brought us both the prospect of TTIP and chlorine chicken. Now the EU are conducting talks on TTIP V2 that as seen EU countries flooded with USA best beef causing outrage at the loss of business from farmers especially the Irish farmers who seem to be worst hit.
Starmer should make it clear what remaining in the EU would really mean and what the EU trade deals already conducted will bring the UK not hypothetical trade deals with the US. There is a better way of ensuring any trade deal is good for the many and not the few. That would be for the Labour party to get elected and be the government to negotiate any future trade deal with the US or EU
CETA is the clear and present danger to the UK and all our public services; Any service that are funded by the public purse will be further opened up to the private sector but not just the private sector this fill be globalised corporations from both Canada and the US.
So what do the Canadians think about CETA
People need to know the truth and what remaining in the EU would mean the Labour Party abstained from the vote on CETA the Tories + a few Labour pro EU members voted it through.
Statement by War-on-want and what CETA means to the UK
“Quite simply, CETA puts corporate power above democratic rule. It includes the notorious ‘corporate courts’ which give big business the power to sue countries for any policy they claim could affect their profits, even if it is vital to the public interest.
Labour explicitly opposed these courts in its manifesto and as recently as last week the opposition leader branded them ‘dystopian’ and spoke proudly about Labour’s opposition to them. Yet today, the party took a step back. By abstaining from the vote, they have disappointed thousands of ordinary people who implored them to take a stand for trade justice.”
Parliament has passed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU by a vote of 315 to 36.
Speaking ahead of the vote yesterday Asad Rehman, executive director of War on Want, said: “If CETA passes through parliament today, it will be a nail in the coffin of British democracy. Our message to MPs is clear: vote no to CETA. Do it for our public services, for our economy, so we can eat safe food and breathe clean air. That’s what it means to take back control.”
Statement by Open Democracy
“The EU/Canada trade deal threatens to put corporate interests over many things that we in Britain take for granted. The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement – to give it its official name – risks our food standards, undermines our rights at work, and fails to adequately protect the environment or bolster efforts to stop runaway climate change.”