Trade Bill

Written evidence submitted by Trade Justice Dundee (TB33)

Response to Liam Fox’s Trade Bill at Committee Stage from Trade Justice Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, a member of the Trade Justice Scotland Coalition

1) Trade Justice Dundee is a group of local people from all walks of life and experience. Our common denominator is our feeling that current Trade Deals are less about trade and more about allowing Government Ministers to circumvent the democratic process and result in ever-increasing corporate influence over our lives.

2) The nationwide campaign against the EU-negotiated Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal, showed how sceptical the public are of trade deals that are negotiated in total secrecy which are not subject to public or parliamentary scrutiny.

3) The current Trade Bill fails to address this lack of transparency, democratic process and parliamentary scrutiny that exists in the UK in relation to trade deals. This issue must be addressed; amending the Trade Bill offers an immediate and important opportunity to do that.

4) It is misleading to say that ‘replacement’ deals that the UK is currently part of, due to our membership of the EU, can be simply transferred on Brexit. Some renegotiation will be needed and a democratic process for scrutinising and agreeing those changes is vital.

5) This would usefully set the precedent for that same process to be used for new deals post-Brexit as they are negotiated.

6) Some suggestions for actions that could be taken to ensure a democratic process of scrutiny and ratification of future international trade deals:

· Comprehensive, independently produced impact assessments that include environmental, human rights, gender-equality, labour, social and economic impacts should be carried out and published.

· Impact assessments should be done for all parts of the UK and that MPs, MSPs, etc, and the public, have access to them, in plain language, to allow full understanding of them.

· The government’s negotiating objectives and mandate should be published and receive parliamentary scrutiny in Westminster, and by the devolved administrations, before negotiations begin.

· Westminster and the devolved administrations should be given the opportunity to agree the UK’s priorities and ‘red lines’ for negotiations, and if the UK government wants to change this as negotiations progress then they must seek further consent.

· Consultation bodies outside parliament should be set up, and include civil society representatives.

· Scrutiny of ongoing trade agreements, and the final texts, should be allowed by committees in the UK parliament and the devolved administrations of the UK.

· The final text should be subject to parliamentary debate in Westminster and the devolved administrations and it should be subject to approval under the super-affirmative procedure.

8) While trade policy itself is reserved, many areas of policy that trade deals can impact, are devolved, eg health, environment, food, farming, public procurement and the provision of public services. As such, it is vital that the elected representatives of the devolved administrations of the United Kingdom are given a meaningful role in the scrutiny and ratification of international trade deals.

9) The Trade Justice Scotland coalition has drafted a set of ten principles that we believe a just and ethical trade system should be based on, to ensure that trade deals can play a powerful and genuinely useful role in building a fairer society and protecting the planet. The document is online at http://scotlandagainstttip.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Just-Trade-Principles-FINAL.pdf

10) A thorough amendment of the Trade Bill, to guarantee a democratic and inclusive process for passing international trade deals, will be the first step in ensuring that the United Kingdom plays a truly positive and exemplary role in its post-Brexit trading arrangements with other countries around the world.

February 2018

 

Prepared 1st February 2018