Joe explains why he will be asking North Ayrshire Council to declare outright opposition to TTIP.
Behind closed doors there is a deal being thrashed out that could strike a blow to the heart of our democracy.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a proposed trade agreement between the EU and the US which is being negotiated in secret. It is so secretive that even our Members of the European Parliament struggle to gain access to the details of it.
From what we do know of it, TTIP is bad news for public services, food standards, workers’ rights and many other things.
If agreed, TTIP will give multinational corporations the power to sue democratically elected Governments should they make a decision that could impact on the companies’ profits.
Concerns about this are not misguided, they are based on the experiences of existing trade agreements from across the globe.
For example, big tobacco companies in Australia sued the Government there for introducing plain packaging on cigarettes.
In Argentina the Government were sued by Energy Companies when it introduced a price freeze to protect working families following the nation’s financial crash.
And in Egypt the Government was even sued for increasing the minimum wage.
TTIP is also a threat to our NHS. It is feared that, if approved, TTIP could open up more of our NHS to privatisation and prevent any future decision to take health services back in house. As a result, campaigns to have the NHS exempted from TTIP have grown in support across the UK. I support these campaigns and also recognise that TTIP is a threat to all public services.
TTIP could not only open up all public services, such as education and local government services, to privatisation - it could also make it virtually impossible to bring services, such as our railways, back into public control, without those who take such decisions being sued by large, powerful corporations.
In addition, it is feared that TTIP will see workers’ rights reduced to US standards whilst EU food standards, which for example impose restrictions on pesticides, could be watered down to US levels as well.
I therefore believe that TTIP must be opposed outright.
This has been a view shared by trade unions such as Unite and UNISON for some time and I am delighted that at our recent Scottish Labour Party Conference delegates, by a huge margin, voted to oppose TTIP in its entirety.
Given the threat that TTIP poses, and the fact that it is being negotiated in secret, I believe it is imperative that we raise awareness of it across our communities. That’s why, next Wednesday, I will be asking all Councillors in North Ayrshire to join me in opposing TTIP. I am clear that we must do so to defend our democracy, protect the public services that we all rely on and maintain the hard fought gains that the Labour movement has won for workers over many decades.