Cameron, Free Trade, copyright and the NHS

So Cameron and the Tories are up shit creek on the subject of Europe. The disarray of the Tory Party and the coalition makes front page reading for the last few weeks, but I want to explore a slightly different dimension. The Tory malaise is actually aggravated by the UK’s Chairmanship of the G8 which Cameron is using as a platform to evangelise a US-EU Free Trade treaty. This is no doubt to try and focus the Tory/UKIP spatfest on “Common Market” & Trade issues so as not to have to deal with his right wing critics on justice, sovereignty and immigration.

The Port of Barcelona

For the rest of us though, he seems to have missed three things. There is a longstanding international organisation responsible for the propagation of Free Trade, called the World Trade Organisation. While not a UN agency, it is represented on the UN’s Chief Executive Board. Why not use the WTO rather than the G8? Admittedly the US also prefers to side-line the WTO these days, since the developing world have a significant voting majority.

The second factor is that Trade Treaties, particularly with the US no longer involve tariff harmonisation. It’s about intellectual property. So what’s in it for us? There is no doubt that the right wing EU commission want another go at passing more restrictive intellectual property laws led by Karel de Grucht, the Commission’s trade commissioner, who promised to return when the European Parliament rejected the last attempt to make an EU/US trade agreement, ACTA. In the end it wasn’t close, only France’s UMP voted to support the treaty. This is going to be messy.

More recently, Dr/Lord David Owen has written at OpenDemocracy.net, as to how the secrecy and Cameron’s wilful blindness are threatening the NHS by entrenching the free trade treaty provisions in supra national law.  Owen says,

“The Prime Minister writing in the Wall Street Journal on Monday made no mention of health nor the alarming prospect of investment protection being extended to the whole raft of private health contracts in the UK that American health care companies and consultancies expect to be awarded to them in the next few years.

Such protection could have the effect of health contracts being virtually retained in perpetuity with no democratic right for an incoming government to discontinue the contracts once their term had expired without being able to prove gross negligence and risking very heavy compensation payments. Ominously, the Prime Minister suggested that “everything must be on the table” in the negotiations.”

Like nearly everything else this Coalition has done, Cameron’s Free Trade initiative is just another way of selling the country down the river,adopting US’s copyright laws and entrenching the privatisation of the NHS in international law.

1 Comments.

  1. This got lost in the drafts folder. Written in May 2013, published 32 months late, but backdated.