International Trade

Barack Obama's UK visit brings about government statement on TTIP

4 min read

27 April 2016

Former editor

The government has emphasised the importance of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) – saying it is not just for big firms.

In a statement released through the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), SMEs were cited as the “hardest hit” by trade barriers between the EU and the US.

These kind of companies, it said, often do not have the time or money to deal with the rules and regulations required to do business in the US. Removing “unnecessary barriers” and bettering regulatory operation will help to save time and money, it stated.

First tabled in the 1990s, but yet to be ratified, TTIP has the potential to boost the size of the EU economy by £85bn – according to the European Commission. It’s aim is to reduce regulatory barriers for companies trading across the Atlantic, but little detail has been revealed regarding consultations conducted behind closed doors.

The British government has now said TTIP could “inject up tot £10bn” into the UK economy – with the average household benefiting to the tune of £400 a year.

One of the primary concerns amongst critics has been that TTIP will lower standards. However, the new statement has hit out against this by saying the agreement will not lower health, safety, environmental or labour standards. “This deal will not give the EU or US the power to change each other’s regulations, including EU restrictions on genetically modified foods. Nor will the deal prevent either the EU or the US from introducing new environmental and low carbon legislation,” it said.

As covered by newspapers such as the Independent, TTIP will also not threaten public services like the NHS, the government detailed. While the European Commission has claimed that public services will be kept out of TTIP, UK trade minister Lord Livingston has reportedly admitted that talks about the NHS were still on the table.

Don’t let the unexpected trip you up when exporting to the US

Tackling the issue of TTIP being a “threat to democracy”, the government described it as a “misunderstanding”. The so-called “Investor-State Dispute Settlement” (ISDS) has a purpose of protecting small and big businesses from “discriminatory or unfair treatment by a state”, and not allowing foreign businesses to sue governments sat pass laws affecting profits.

“The UK has over 90 bilateral investment treaties with other countries and, to date, there has not been a single successful ISDS case brought against the UK, nor has the threat of potential claims affected the government’s legislative programme,” the statement said.

Barack Obama’s recent trip to the UK was seen by many to be a way of speeding up TTIP negotiations between the likes of David Cameron, German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Francois Hollande and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi.

Speaking during the trip, the US president said: “If we don’t complete negotiations this year, then upcoming political transitions — in the United States and Europe — could mean this agreement won’t be finished for quite some time.”

In February, Real Business journeyed to New York and sought some advice from UKTI’s US director Martin Cook on tackling the American market.