TTIP stands for "Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership". It is a project for a comprehensive trade deal between the EU and the US.
Currently, trade relations between the EU and the US are subject to the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which date back to 1994. An ambitious reform of the WTO known as the Doha Round was attempted from 2001, but negotiations collapsed in 2008 and the process has been at a standstill since.
Countries that have wanted to develop trade further had therefore to bypass the WTO and resort to bilateral or plurilateral trade deals. The EU has in recent years done trade deals with countries such as Colombia and Canada. Negotiations are on-going with many others. TTIP takes place in this context.
If negotiations with the US are successful, the resulting agreement would be the largest ever bilateral trade deal as the EU and the US account together for over half of all global production, and a quarter of all global trade (24% of world export and 27% of world import).
You can keep up to date with developments from your Labour MEP here.
The TTIP negotiations cover 24 chapters, divided in three broad ‘pillars’: market access, regulatory cooperation and rules.
The first of these pillars touches upon traditional trade issues that are trade in goods and services, as well as rules of origins and public procurements.
The second pillar aims at shaping TTIP as a 'living agreement' through which processes would be set up to make future domestic regulations trade-friendly.
The third pillar concentrates on rules in other fields, primarily investment (including Investor State Dispute Settlement - ISDS), intellectual property rights, energy and trade and sustainable development (i.e. labour and environmental standards).
The deal and the negotiations have caused a great deal of public concern, and I have personally received over 35,000 emails and letters from residents in the South East detailing their worries about parts of the deal; many of which I share.
Nonetheless, I’m convinced that having Labour MEPs being able to take part in negotiating the deal is positive for the UK and our region. If the British government were solely responsible for negotiating with the US, George Osborne would have had little compunction about signing away our rights to democratically control our health and other public services. The fact that Labour and other Socialist MEPs and governments are involved in negotiations at EU level have meant that if a deal is eventually agreed, it will be a far fairer one than Osborne would have signed off.
Labour MEPs, along with our European colleagues, have already made significant changes to the proposed deal and negotiations. These have included: forcing the publication of many of the EU proposals on the EU Commission’s website, enabling MEPs to have access to many of the negotiation documents rather than just those of the Trade Committee, and pushing the EU Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, to put forward a plan for a permanent court with 15 independent judges and six judges appointed publicly by the U.S., the EU and a third country, rather than the hugely controversial ISDS system which allows for secret courts to hear disputes.
Personally, I would prefer the negotiations to be completely transparent. Having exercised my ‘right’, on a number of occasions, to view some of the relevant documents, albeit in secret, I do not understand why they could not be provided to the public. Nonetheless, we would not have obtained even the ability to view these documents in secret, without pressure from Labour MEPs and other Socialists.
You can see my submission to the UK government’s Business, Innovation and Skills Department Select Committee enquiry into TTIP here, which goes into more detail on these points.