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TTIP is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
It is the EU-US trade deal set to be finalised before the end of this year - its aim is to cut trade barriers across the Atlantic to allow the free flow of goods and services.
Public ownership of public services is seen as a barrier, since fairness and social need are placed before the most important need of multinationals: to make a private profit. The principal aim of TTIP is to lock states into private ownership and delivery of all goods and services, with no return ticket.
Now of course US and other multinational companies already provide services for the NHS. The difference that TTIP would make, is that any future government would be unable to reverse the policy of outsourcing and privatisation, even when it proves to be an expensive fiasco.
TTIP specifies that overseas investments must be protected. So any future legislation that could damage their profits or any future expectation of what their profits might be, could result in legal action and compensation. This would be through a claim for “expropriation” the wrongful seizure of private property by the government. Even a failure to re-let a contract after it has expired and take a service back in house could result in disputes, as has occurred in similar trade agreements elsewhere in the world. The threat of huge compensation claims would lock the NHS into an expanded corporate market heralded by the Health and Social Care Act, even when this was not in best interests of our patients. Public health would also be damaged as our public health regulations are down sized to harmonise with US regulations. Access to generic drugs will be under increased threat.
Can the NHS avoid these threats? Only if the government excludes the NHS from TTIP. Lord Green, a government minister, has assured Mark Porter that healthcare services are “not a focus” in the negotiations.
But Lansley has indicated that this direction of travel is what he intended to follow the HSCA. David Cameron, in a House of Commons statement, chose his words with care. He said he believed the health services would be treated in the same way in the EU-US negotiations as it is in relation to EU rules. He avoided answering the question directly whether the NHS would be excluded.
TTIP acts as the bridge between multinational corporations and the Health and Social Care Act.
The Royal College of Nursing at its recent congress voted overwhelmingly by 445 votes to 13 to campaign for the exclusion of the NHS from TTIP. Let’s join them in a united campaign.