Hartlepool mayor wades in over Europe and America trade row

Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.

The Mayor of Hartlepool has written to the Government over the council’s concerns about a proposed trade agreement between Europe and America.

Councillor Mary Fleet has now sent a letter to Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, calling for a full debate in Parliament on the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Public services, especially the NHS are potentially at risk

Councillor Mary Fleet

Hartlepool Borough Council says it is concerned about the secrecy of negotiations and what it could mean for the public sector, including local councils and the NHS.

The authority fears the proposed deal will weaken regulation for trade between Europe and the US and could lead to privatisation of public services.

The letter follows a motion put forward by Councillor Stephen Thomas at a recent meeting of the full council, which was unanimously supported by fellow Hartlepool councillors.

In it, Coun Fleet says: “The TTIP appears to be a series of ‘behind closed doors’ negotiations seeking to establish a bi-lateral trade agreement between the EU and the US, aimed at reducing or weakening regulatory barriers for big businesses wishing to trade within the two economic trading blocs.

“Public services, especially the NHS, are potentially at risk as the TTIP could well open up Europe’s public health, education and other public services to US companies, leading to the possibility of privatisation of the NHS through the back door.”

The letter, which was copied to Prime Minister David Cameron, also voices concerns over a possible relaxation of EU food safety and labour standards, sparking fears of greater genetically-modified foods and business switching jobs to the US.

It adds: “From a democratic sovereignty perspective, the TTIP also proposes the introduction of Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which allows companies to sue governments if the policies they introduce causes a ‘loss of profit’.

“This potentially gives a strong hand to multi-national corporations in dictating nation state policy matters, which is entirely disproportionate.”

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has said the partnership would put new rules in place to make it easier and fairer to export, import and invest across the Atlantic.

The European Commission says the TTIP would tighten up an existing system for settling disputes between foreign firms and governments.

Regarding public service fears, the commission says all EU trade deals leave governments free to run public services as they wish and will fully uphold food safety standards and the way the EU sets them.