Private companies will hold government to ransom under proposed trade deal with US

Stop TTIP – stop the corporate power grab

UNISON briefing: The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

A proposed trade deal between the European Union and the United States would allow private companies to hold the UK to ransom, unless a proposed clause allowing big business to sue the Government is scrapped, the UK’s largest public service union is warning. 

UNISON is also calling for public services to be exempt from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), an agreement that would not just remove trade tariffs but would also open markets in the service sector, including public services such as health, education and social services.

The inclusion of an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause would allow multinational companies providing public services to sue the UK Government if their contract was threatened. 

This would have a major impact on the National Health Service following the large-scale privatisation ushered in by the Health and Social Care Act in England. Private healthcare multinationals would be able to use the ISDS mechanism to prevent a future UK Government from bringing the health service back into public control.

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said:

“The Government and the European Commission must come clean about this agreement. Not only are the negotiations taking place behind closed doors, but the ISDS mechanism will allow multinationals to sue the UK Government in secretive trade tribunals with no right of appeal.

“The Government must not surrender its power to regulate the market to private sector companies that are only interested in making profit. If any element of TTIP erodes the ability of the Government to act in the public interest or allows multinational corporations to hold a government to ransom it must be vehemently rejected.” 

The EU has exclusive powers to negotiate trade and investment agreements, with any final deal requiring approval from national governments and the European Parliament. However, neither body will be able to propose amendments – they can only accept or reject the final proposal.

The Government’s record of putting markets, rather than citizens, at the heart of public services is of grave concern at a time when the future of public service procurement is being determined.

UNISON’s National Delegate Conference, being held in Brighton this week, is expected to pass a motion today (Thursday 19 June) that would signal the beginning of a formal campaign to have public services excluded from the agreement, and for the ISDS mechanism to be removed.