THE BLOG

The Benefits of TTIP Mean We Can't Allow It to Be Sacrificed by Misinformation and Scare Stories

10/10/2014 15:34 BST | Updated 10/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Collaboration between Europe and the US on trade has not always been trouble-free, but it's impossible to deny that working closely together has created huge benefits.

In 1858, the first transatlantic cable was laid. Despite widespread incredulity that this seemingly impossible project could ever work, it reduced communication time between the two great trading powers from ten days to minutes.

The mutual desire for a close bond was confirmed, and there was no turning back. New cable lines were soon laid, and now the ocean is criss-crossed with cables carrying messages, trade, and information in seconds.

The latest plan to bring our two trading blocs closer together has been met with similar levels of cynicism, but will lay the foundations for a trading future that will keep the EU and US at the forefront of international commerce, progress and prosperity.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will scrap trade tariffs that increase consumer prices in the UK and that also cost UK exporters $1billion per year. It will reduce the burden of similar regulation in the United States and Europe, without changing the levels of safeguards.

Currently British companies such as Barbour have to pay a 32% tariff to sell their products in America, while iconic Brompton bikes, through a quirk of regulation have to pay 20% tariffs. TTIP will remove this impediment to jobs and growth.

The deal will enable many more businesses to produce an identical product that can be sold on both sides of the Atlantic, rather than being forced to adapt their manufacturing processes, at great cost, to meet the requirements of unnecessarily different regulation for what is essentially the same item.

Currently, Jaguar Land Rover has to design two subtly different cars to meet regulations on either side of the Atlantic. For example, cars require different rear windscreen heaters. Successful negotiations for TTIP will boost trade by eliminating this pointless difference.

It is not just businesses that will benefit. While such forecasts are always difficult especially for an agreement that is only in its formative stage, the average family of four could benefit from an ambitious agreement by up to £400 a year thanks to reductions in price due to removal for example of a 12% tariff on jeans and a 10% tariff on cars, lower prices from greater competition and increased wages.

This weekend there will be protests against TTIP but much of what the protest groups claim about TTIP is wrong and in many cases is little more than scaremongering.

People are being told that this agreement will lead to the privatisation of the NHS, removal of food health and safety standards and leave it with an inability to regulate in the future. This is simply not true.

The NHS will not be privatised through TTIP. As the Health Secretary has made clear the NHS will continue to be free at the point of use to those who need it. TTIP will not undermine the ability of local NHS commissioners to take decisions on which providers should deliver services in the best interests of their patients. Nor will it extend our existing international treaty obligations in health services. The NHS is there for everyone who needs it, funded from general taxation. If it was harmful in any way to the NHS, I would not champion it and the use of scare stories about the NHS to undermine this treaty is reprehensible.

People are being told that a successful TTIP agreement will open the floodgates to genetically modified food, chlorine-dipped chickens and no end of horror stories about the food on our plates. Again this is simply not true.

Both President Obama and the President of the European Commission have been clear that TTIP will not lower standards in areas such as public health and food. On the other hand, TTIP will make it easier for UK food producers to export high quality food products that are currently blocked by a variety of unfair rules.

The last major attempt to bring together standards was the European single market, which not only did not lower standards but in fact increased them across the continent.

Finally, people are being told that the Government will be left open to aggressive legal action from multinational corporations if those businesses do not get their way; that the public interest will be easily overturned in favour of the boardroom. Once again this is simply not true. The Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses included in this agreement are there only to guard against governments unfairly targeting foreign investors, not to sacrifice the interests of the public at large.

TTIP will not give corporations any extra power to overturn local or national Government decisions. Indeed, the right of governments to regulate in the public interest will be explicitly protected by the agreement. And this type of agreement is not new. The UK has over 90 of them, in force now for an aggregate of more than 2,000 years, and has never been successfully sued.

The content of ISDS provisions in TTIP is still under negotiation and the European Commission carried out a public consultation earlier this year addressing some of the concerns with the existing system. These new style ISDS clauses will makes the rights of government explicit , ensure greater transparency in proceedings and deter investors from making unnecessary or speculative claims. This could serve as a model for future agreements with developed economies around the world.

Huge numbers of people and many consumer groups as well as business organisations would like to see the TTIP negotiations succeed. Which? can clearly see the benefits it will bring consumers. The Federation of Small Businesses backs it, welcoming the help it will give members to access huge new markets. The Confederation of British Industry, and many, many more are rooting for this deal. And you should be too, for the £10 billion it could add to the UK economy each year.

The laying of thousands of miles of cable along the ocean floor was once attacked as folly, but without it we might not have maintained our position on the world stage.

TTIP is no different. The benefit to our economy, consumers and small businesses means we can't allow it to be sacrificed by misinformation and scare stories.