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A little-known free trade deal threatens to sound the death knell on public services — long before the controversial new US-EU TTIP agreement comes into effect.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) warned yesterday that shadowy bureaucrats and big business figures from Canada and Brussels have already finished behind-closed-doors talks on the separate “Ceta” deal.
TUC international head Owen Tudor said that once it is implemented, “most of the worries people have about TTIP will already have come to pass.”
The warning came as Health Minister Earl Howe confirmed that the government sees British pharmaceutical firms’ profits as more important than stopping the NHS from falling prey to big healthcare firms from across the Atlantic.
He said that TTIP had the potential to allow drugs companies to crack the US market so “it would be highly unwise and detrimental in our view to exclude health” from negotiations.
A broad campaign against the secretive US-EU deal has gained momentum in recent weeks over fears that it see forced privatisation of services and threaten governments that wish to reverse sell-offs with court action.
But similar Ceta negotiations have already ended.
The contents have not yet been made public but the final version — described by experts as a blueprint for TTIP — is expected to give corporations and private investors the right to sue governments and to water down trade union rights.
Trade justice charity World Development Movement director Nick Dearden said that like TTIP the Ceta deal is “a charter for big business and a disaster for democracy.
“If it is agreed, it will undermine the power of democratically elected governments to make decisions in the public interest.”
A leak of a late draft last month appeared to confirm that only a few specified areas of the economy will remain protected from forced liberalisation — code for privatisation.
And a special tribunal system will allow big businesses to pursue compensation from a nation state where their investments and “legitimate expectation” of future income are affected by policies such as nationalisation.
The TUC general council voted on the eve of last week’s annual conference to fight Ceta’s implementation.
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