British candidates embrace TTIP as ‘biggest prize’ for UK in Europe

Britons are undecided about TTIP. Protest placard, London. [Garry Knight/Flickr]

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is the “biggest prize” in global trade, Labour candidate Mike Grapes said on Tuesday (21 April), echoing a widely shared view among other British political parties.

Grapes, who is standing in Ilford South atthe UK’s general election on 7 May, said TTIP represented a “great chance to set global standards”.

He argued that the trade agreement, if concluded, represented a chance to remove “unnecessary complexities” from doing business with the US, such as the double testing of products.

The Labour candidate was speaking at an election hustings for prospective London MPs held by the European Movement at Europe House.

Grapes said TTIP did raise concerns over possible impacts on public services such as the NHS and on the power it could give to multinational companies seeking redress via the much talked about Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism.

But he brushed those fears aside, saying most “are based on mythology”.

>> Read: Commission changes TTIP position on cosmetics

Hugh Small, a Green Party candidate, cautioned over the secrecy of negotiations. However, he admitted he was not against the idea of global standards, and praised US regulation in financial services and the energy sector.

Anuja Prashar, from the Liberal Democrats, said ISDS had the potential to grant too much power to multinational companies. The UKIP candidate, Robert Stephenson, said his party would not sign up to TTIP.

Asked about the role of the EU in London’s success Labour’s Mike Grapes highlighted the importance of the EU to London. “If London is to remain the centre of our globally focused economy, we have to remain in the EU,” he said.

Conservative Dominic Grieve said membership was “crucial”. Despite his party’s promise of a referendum by 2017, Grieve said his party’s manifesto was not about a UK exit, but about making the EU “work better for everyone”.

Grieve, who accused the previous Commission of “deliberately undermining treaties” when it suited them, nevertheless wants the UK to remain in the EU. He supports a referendum, and said “If the price of the keeping the UK in the EU is a referendum every 40 years, that’s ok.”

But, he said, the country required assurance that the EU was changing, and that not being in the eurozone would not lead to Britain to being disadvantaged in the single market.

>> Read our LinksDossier: TTIP for dummies

In June 2013, the European Union's heads of state and heads of government gave the Commission the responsibility for the free-trade negotiations between the EU and the United States.

The European Commission is seeking agreement on a number of issues, including the protection of investments and the proposed mechanism of dispute settlement between investors and states.

Negotiations between the United States and the European Union on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership began in July 2013. The guidelines stated that the EU should seek to include provisions on investment protection and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in the proposed agreement.

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