We are all better served by having international trade rules than by not having them but they have to be properly balanced and fair.
TTIP proposals must receive proper scrutiny at both a UK and EU level and that any final deal must have transparency and accountability at its heart. I was disappointed that the Coalition Government paid such little attention to these concerns and I believe it is important that the current Government ensures they are covered in the negotiating process.
I support the principles behind the negotiations on TTIP and I believe there are ways the agreement could bring significant benefits to Britain. It is absolutely vital, however, that the benefits of TTIP filter down to employees, small businesses and consumers, that the deal is open and accountable and that it does not water down current labour, consumer, environmental and food safety standards.
There has been particular concern recently about the potential impact of TTIP on consumer safety standards following recent allegations that the car industry withheld a report suggesting safety standards in some US cars are lower than in the EU. I recognise how important these concerns are given the excess deaths caused by air pollution, and in my view we should not be prepared to accept any deal that does not protect consumer safety standards.
I fought the General Election on a manifesto that recognised the potential benefits of TTIP but emphasised that any final agreement needs to ensure that the NHS is protected and that it also promotes decent jobs and avoids ‘a race to the bottom’. Labour MEPs have also made the case strongly in the European Parliament to exclude public services – including our NHS – from TTIP negotiations and to ensure workers’ rights, environmental standards and food safety standards are protected.
The Government must listen and respond to these concerns. I can assure you that I will continue to work with my colleagues to press the Government to ensure that TTIP delivers the jobs, growth and fairer deal for consumers.