On Public Services, let me be clear, the EU/US TTIP is not intended to open the NHS, or any other European health service, up to competition from American multinationals. There is no specific mention of national public health service liberalisation anywhere in the mandate given to the European Commission by the national governments of the EU.
The Conservative Delegation of MEPs have previously been contacted by the British Medical Association (BMA) and made aware of the concerns with regard to definitions of the scope. The BMA recognises the significant economic benefits of this agreement and welcomes the positive impact that such developments may have upon the health of the UK's population. It has requested assurances from the negotiators that they will not allow the commercialisation of the NHS, as well as requesting clarification of specific definitions. We very much welcome this initiative and fully support open consultation between all sectors to ensure that our public interests are represented throughout this process.
As referenced by the BMA, the Commission's impact assessment on the future of EU/US trade relations stated that in line with WTO rules, the EU usually includes general exceptions in its trade agreements with respect to public services in general and public health in particular, which can legally override any trade obligations. The EU and the US will therefore keep its "policy space" with regards to these matters. In other words governments will retain the ability to legislate in the interests of their citizens as they see fit.
I would like to draw parallels with the recently finalised trade agreement with Canada (CETA), which proves a useful precedent in this case. CETA contains an exemption, the “utilities reservation” which includes public health, education, and other public services. This exemption will allow the UK to maintain its public policy in the area of public health, which includes the NHS. The Conservatives will instruct the Commission to include similar language in TTIP, so that the UK’s public policies will remain unaffected. It may also be assuring to know that neither the EU-South Korea FTA nor the North American Free Trade Agreement included or resulted in the opening of publicly funded health services.
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