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Rita Issa is a foundation year 2 doctor living in Islington and is a representative to the Junior Doctors Committee. She spoke for the first time at the ARM about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
As someone who joined the BMA to campaign against the Health and Social Care Bill, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to speak against TTIP, or the ‘Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership’.
The Health and Social Care Act of 2012 has opened the doors of the NHS to private providers and an ability to profit from ill health. In a continuing process of privatisation, TTIP will further align the UK and US health care systems, with overriding power being transferred to transnational corporations.
TTIP is a Free Trade Agreement that will remove the regulatory differences between the US and European nations. This is currently being debated between the US and the EU on behalf of transnationals: large commercial companies with global operations. It will encourage the trading of goods across national borders by reducing tariffs and introducing legal protection for companies who may invest in services.
The reality of TTIP will mean that transnational corporations have the right to enter the UK market and operate without limits on their activities. Companies can subsequently sue governments for new regulation that might, even unintentionally, limit that transnationals’ expected future profits. Such agreements are irreversible commitments made at a level of international trade law that once signed, will be almost impossible to repeal, even if a new government comes into power.
An issue I am quite comfortable campaigning about from behind a computer screen, it took more than a little courage to stand in front of the 500 strong, fluorescently lit hall of BMA representatives and debate the technical issue of Free Trade Agreements. My saving grace may have been that I only plucked up the courage to submit a speaker slip two hours before the motion was due to be debated. With little time to get nervous, I quickly drew upon a number of trusty resources and facts I have stored for such a day, and paced the halls of the conference centre in Harrogate, reciting and reciting my speech.
Don’t speak too fast. Don’t speak too slow. I assumed the opening proposer of the motion would outline the technical aspects of TTIP so I instead I aimed that my speech encourage an emotional response and personal reflection on the subject.
As a minimum, we should be campaigning to exempt the NHS from TTIP. Realistically, the wide reaching impact of this Free Trade Agreement on environmental law, food, occupational health, energy, public health and more will mean that the British Government needs to reject TTIP in its entirety, to protect both the NHS and the wider factors that impact on population health and wellbeing.
You can read my ARM speech below. If you want to find out more about TTIP, I would recommend following the activities of 38 Degrees who are putting a significant amount of funding into coordinating a pan-European campaign against TTIP.
“The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is part of the continued process that sees the NHS move from being a social body acting in the interests of patients, to an economic body acting in the interest of profits. The technicalities of TTIP have already been discussed, so I won’t go into this further, though I am sure you are now aware of how TTIP will be hugely detrimental to the NHS, and to public health, food, environmental and labour laws.
Looking at Free Trade Agreements currently in operation, we see the tobacco industry currently suing the Australian government for introducing plain tobacco packaging, and Veolia suing the Egyptian government for introducing a national minimum wage. Both tobacco control and minimum living standards for workers are hugely important public health issues and it is ridiculous that a private transnational corporation can sue a government for legislating on such issues – purely on the basis of a ‘potential loss in profits’.
The commonwealth report released this week stated the NHS the best healthcare system of countries included, with healthcare provisions in the USA declared the worst.
Do we really want to open our doors to American companies and regulations that will negatively impact on our sovereign laws and bring the NHS down to the level of that of the American healthcare system?
Do we want allow transnational organisations the right to bring Investor State Dispute Settlements, that will deter governments from introducing social policies for the fear of legal action?
Do we want irreversible commitments made at a level of international trade law that trump national law, which undermine the power of democratically elected governments and move power into the hands of unaccountable players who we cannot repeal?
The Canadian government has exempted its healthcare system from Free Trade Agreements and so can we.
If you have fought the Health and Social Care Act, are against the ‘profitisation’ of healthcare and against the degradation of democracy, then I implore you to vote in favour of this motion in its entirety.”
Here are some useful links; I fully thank the people who have taken their time and expertise to draw this information together, and from whom in turn I check up on my facts...
Your speech was excellent Rita, as was Layth's, and I was delighted that the motion was passed.
Well done Rita,
There is a lot of ignorance about the risk to the NHS of TTIP, even within the GPs pre-ARM.
Last night I attended the American Chamber of Commerce Frankfurt Meeting and heard the Consult in his short speech in American telling us that we should talk to 'our' Unions about the wonderful potential of TTIP. So I spoilt the taste of his much needed red-wine immediately post-speech by telling him that last week the ARM of the BMA had voted against TTIP because of the effect that we know it could have on British health care.
He told me
1. That when his child was successfully treated at Great Ormond Street, a nurse on the private ward had told him how much better it was on the private ward (maybe the hotel side was).
2. There is nothing wrong with a for-profit organization walking away from the contract with government if it is not making a profit.
3. There need to be more discussions about TTIP, but once it's in place we can work it out - like the Health and Social Care Bill I presume! He was very shocked to hear that TTIP might not get through 'quickly'.
I was at the 4th of July Celebration in Kronberg. No fireworks, only my verbal contributions. Germans are equally sceptical about the TTIP, and the American Consult General in Berlin is having a really hard time trying to carry out his orders to get it in place.
Dr med Janet Massey
(A passionate European who spoke on the effect of the Directive for Cross-border Healthcare within the EEU, Motion 443)