Global Trade Agreement, a Threat to Our National Health Service

A motion at the BMA conference being held in Edinburgh, showed clarity on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) global trade deal, pointing out that the “US and EU Free Trade Agreement…could allow international corporations to have legal rights to buy lucrative parts of the NHS”. It called for the BMA to campaign against the agreement, stating the NHS should not be part of the deal.

A fabric of lies and half-truths has been woven around the inclusion of healthcare within the EU/US trade agreement. These distortions are that the ConDem government is against health’s inclusion; that government health policy pre-dates the discussions on TTIP so there is no connection between the two: that discussions are taking place at the EU to avoid problems arising etc. These comments were heard at the conference, and led to a referral back of the insightful motion from the BMA Leicestershire and Rutland division.

However within the Health and Social Care Act particularly through Section 75 Regulations, competitive bidding for contracts will be enforced leading, as Lord Owen said, to a “fully marketised National Health Service”.

The Act and Regulations were drafted so they would fit in with the free trade agreement. Since 2007 there has been a Transatlantic Economic Council which has been preparing the ground for a trade agreement such as the TTIP and the liberalisation of financial services. In 2010 at the EU Trade Commission civil society dialogue meetings, it was admitted that it would be possible to take advantage of the economic crisis to push the trade agreement through as quickly as possible; that there should be “regulatory harmonisation” before negotiations began; and that healthcare should be the first service to be harmonised.

The problem with trade agreements is that they are made on behalf of transnational corporations. They become international law and are intended to be irreversible. Private corporations are given the right to operate in sovereign nation states, often on better terms than national companies; they can also sue governments and force them to introduce more favourable regulations. Profit is truly King. The Cameron government prepared health legislation in line with this harmonising agenda.

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