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Transatlantic trade deal threatens NHS and must be stopped in its tracks

A free trade agreement between the European Union and USA is designed to meet the interests of corporations rather than patients and must be stopped in its tracks, warns an editorial in The BMJ.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a series of trade negotiations currently being carried out – in secret – between the EU and US, writes John Hilary, Executive Director of campaign group War on Want.

Its main aim is to reduce regulatory barriers to trade for businesses on both sides of the Atlantic and includes things like food safety rules, environmental legislation and banking regulations.

Public services like the NHS are also to be opened up to competition under TTIP.

Hilary warns that the market liberalisation introduced by the 2012 Health and Social Care Act “ensures it will be effectively impossible to take the NHS back into public hands if the EU-US deal goes through.”

Furthermore, he says both the UK government and the European Commission “have confirmed that TTIP’s investor protection provisions would grant US corporations the power to sue any future administration over such a move.”

He points out that many groups are now campaigning for health services to be taken off the table altogether. Yet even if this were to happen, “there are numerous other ways in which the agreement would have damaging impacts on public health,” he warns.

For example, at least one million people will lose their jobs, with all the attendant health consequences, while TTIP is also set to raise the cost of health care in Europe.

“Far from prioritising public health needs, TTIP has been designed to meet the interests of EU and US corporations seeking to maximise their profits when trading or investing across the Atlantic,” argues Hilary. “If allowed to go ahead, it will represent the greatest transfer of power to transnational capital that we have witnessed in a generation.”

He concludes: “The fact that it is explicitly designed as a blueprint for all future trade and investment agreements across the world makes it even more imperative that we stop it in its tracks.”

Source

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and UK healthcare, John Hilary, BMJ, doi: 10.1136/bmj.g6552, published 4 November 2014.