I want to speak for my group on this. I am the socialist group co-ordinator, so I lead for the whole of the socialist group on trade policy. We take the view that a good TTIP will be good for jobs and growth in the EU. We are sceptical about some of the Commission’s figures about the percentage of growth that it will create or the specific number of jobs, because we do not believe that economic modelling can be done to that extent. However, the direction of travel of a good TTIP would be towards creating more jobs and stimulating growth.
That said, we have three red lines, and Alex Rowley touched on at least two of them. First, we will not support any TTIP that damages public services. Secondly, TTIP should not contain investor-state dispute settlement. Thirdly, and equally importantly, it should not lower consumer standards—you have probably heard about the debate that it might let chlorinated chicken or GMOs into the EU.
I will deal with each of those points as briefly as I can. On public services, it should be made very clear that unless a service is privatised voluntarily—with the emphasis on “voluntarily”—it does not come within the remit of trade agreements. Privatisation cannot be forced. The current argument between Scotland and England is that England has already privatised part of its health service and, if TTIP existed, it could not be taken back into public control. The issue is not that you could be forced to privatise a service if it is not already in the private sector; it is what is called the ratchet clause, which means that you could not bring it back into the public sector.
That is not my interpretation. My interpretation is that if you open up a service and do not exclude it from a trade agreement, you open it up to competition within the domestic market and to competition from whoever you have signed your trade deal with. In this case, it would be America.
The other thing to emphasise is the fact that, so far, the EU has never signed a free trade agreement that does not exempt public services, specifically health. States also have an opt-out, and the UK has never not exercised its right to an opt-out over health services when the EU has signed a free trade agreement. The likelihood of public services being included in the TTIP is therefore slim.
The bigger problem that you and Alex Rowley alluded to, convener, concerns investor-state dispute. Investor-state dispute settlements have been abused in the past. They are not a new thing; there are something like 1,400 ISDSs around at the moment, many of them—illegally since the Lisbon treaty came into force—internal EU agreements.
One of the famous cases that is often cited as an argument against ISDS is the fact that Swedish companies are suing the German Government because Germany is ending its nuclear programme and they are saying that they are entitled to significant compensation because, by ending the programme, Germany has denied them the right to make money. Another famous case is the Philip Morris case against Australia on plain packaging for cigarettes.
It is not right that companies should be able to sue for changes in public policy, nor is it right that they should be able to sue for future profit that they think they will lose because of a policy change. However, we have to find a balance, and if assets are expropriated, it is right that companies are protected. You might think that that does not happen very often in the modern world, but think back to less than a year ago when Argentina took over Spanish assets in Argentina and, until ISDS was exercised, it did not pay any compensation for that. We are trying to find a way in which protection for physical assets can be guaranteed but not for the other things for which ISDS has been used.
A further complication—I am sorry, but this is a bit more complicated than you might have expected—is that, for example, nine of the 28 EU member states have ISD agreements with the US. Frankly, those agreements are all badly and loosely worded at the moment, which opens them up to attack. The deal that the EU is preparing to do will be much tighter. How can I say that? Because we have done an ISD deal with Canada that is much more restrictive around what can be sued for.
All that said, I repeat that we do not believe that investor-state disputes should be in the agreements. We think that there is another mechanism for dealing with the issue, which is state-to-state settlement rather than allowing individual private companies to sue.
The points to emphasise are that first, this is not new—it has been going on for a long time; and that, secondly, the EU model is better than any model that any of the existing member states has at present. Some people might say, “Well, you would say that,” but I actually believe that. The EU model is better because we have learned from history and we have learned from the mistakes that have been made in existing investor-state disputes.
Alex Rowley made a point about transparency—he is absolutely right. It was very difficult initially to get good information. That has changed quite dramatically. We now have the negotiating mandate; we now know what the Commission is negotiating on. From the very beginning, after every round of negotiations, the Commission has been coming and reporting to the members of the Committee on International Trade. That has been good for us but rather frustrating because it has been done behind closed doors, in confidence, and we are not meant to go out and talk about the specifics of what we are being told.
As Ian Hudghton rightly said at the beginning, now the agreement and the documentation are going to be open to all MEPs. I do not think that we are there yet as regards transparency, but we are moving in the right direction. Alex Rowley is right to say that this is an important issue. Collectively, I think that we believe that when we get to the end of the process, we should have an informed public that knows what is at stake in relation to TTIP and understands the content of it so that we can have an informed discussion.
It is important to emphasise that the European Parliament will have a vote on the issue. It is not something that the Commission or the member states can settle on their own. At the end of the day, the European Parliament will have a democratic vote to decide whether to accept or reject TTIP.