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Issue #1732      May 25, 2016

Chance to beat the TTIP

BRITAIN: Politics is clearly moving when one of Margaret Thatcher’s most hardline former ministers, Peter Lilley, feels he has to back a Labour amendment to defend the National Health Service (NHS).

Lilley sees himself as a free-marketeer, but even he cannot stomach the planned subjection of our NHS to special corporate courts likely to rule in favour of US private health corporations against the public service ethos embedded in our health service.

Such courts are at the heart of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) being cooked up in secret by negotiators from the US and the European Union.

The latest TTIP documents are available for viewing individually by Members of the European Parliament, provided that they do not film or otherwise record their actual details, making a mockery of scrutiny.

TTIP follows in the wake of similar free-trade deals that provide for Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms to regulate conflicts between national governments and transnational corporations.

So Washington is implacable in pressing for ISDS to be at the heart of TTIP.

Both New Labour and the Tories have gnawed away at the NHS, providing scope for profitable contracts for private companies.

But TTIP would go the whole hog, undermining the public service nature of the NHS and demanding that all contracts within it be put out to tender.

Future government refusal to conform to such private-profit-at-all-costs arrangements would result in ISDS lawsuits demanding compensation for loss of profits.

ISDS courts have backed claims based on governments taking services into public ownership or even instituting a national minimum wage, portraying it as an impediment to free-market determination of wage levels.

Lilley understands that the success he and other Tory MPs enjoyed in campaigning for a failing private company to be returned to the NHS would be scuppered under TTIP.

So he and other Tory MPs will join opposition MPs in the lobby next week when Labour moves an amendment to the Queen’s Speech calling for the NHS to be exempt from TTIP.

PM David Cameron has kept up a constant barrage for years about his supposed commitment to the NHS, but he refuses to substantiate this contentious claim by telling the EU that including the NHS in the TTIP free trade agreement would be a step too far.

Cameron’s reluctance to take the NHS out of the firing line or even to discuss the matter speaks volumes for him, his government and the EU.

The Tories are at one with Washington and Brussels in favouring a world where transnational corporations call the shots and are not inconvenienced by irritations such as national democracy.

Allowing TTIP to be finalised without NHS exemption would, as Unite union assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail makes clear, tie the UK into the mercies of ISDS courts for 20 years.

Preventing Cameron from sabotaging our NHS is essential, which makes success for next week’s Labour amendment crucial.

All Westminster parliamentary parties, bar the Tories and Liberal Democrats, have signed up to a common pledge of opposition to our NHS being opened up to exploitation by US private healthcare providers.

The determination of Cameron and his like-minded friends on the EU Council of Ministers to have a trade deal stitched up without public scrutiny or accountability underlines their anti-democratic approach.

Environmental regulations, employment rights, food safety, privacy laws and other safeguards are also viewed as standing in the way of corporate profits and are therefore at risk.

All the more reason to oppose TTIP in its entirety and defend democracy against transnational corporate domination.

Morning Star

Next article – “Extremists and dangerous elements”

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