Unison welcomes exclusion of health services from EU-US trade talks

11 Jul 14

Trade union Unison has welcomed the announcement from the European Commission that health services will not be included in a proposed trans-Atlantic trade deal, which could have increased competition in the NHS.

Ahead of the resumption of negotiations with the US over the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership today, the commission has set out its position on a host of public services, including healthcare and education.

The statement provided three guarantees for public services in the event of the trade deal being concluded, which is intended to end the use of tariffs and trade barriers across a host of goods and services.

These include a pledge that EU governments free to regulate whatever they consider to be public services, including allowing them to be organised around one public-owned monopoly provider.

It also stated that ‘national treatment’ for publicly funded health and social services and education would allow EU member states to not provide equal treatment to companies or individuals from outside the EU.

Instead, governments can favour European firms over foreign ones and prevent foreign firms from providing, or investing in, these services if they choose.

These three guarantees on monopolies, regulation and ‘national treatment’ will apply, regardless of how the EU lists its commitments on the service sector in the trade agreement, the commission stated.

Welcoming the announcement, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said:

‘The European Commission's decision to exclude the NHS from this proposed trade deal is clear proof that Unison was right to campaign for the health service to be exempt from the agreement.

‘However, Unison is calling on the commission to make a further commitment to exclude all public services from the agreement, and to make public the conditions of the secretive Investor State Dispute Settlements clause that the union is warning would threaten a future Labour government's ability to reverse the Health and Social Care Act.’

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