The House of Commons considered yesterday the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. During the debate Bill Cash made the following interventions:
John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab): I beg to move,
That this House has considered the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
I am pleased to have secured this debate on behalf of the all-party group on European Union-United States trade and investment, which I chair, and to have done so with support from the hon. Members for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb), for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards), and for Ceredigion (Mr Williams). I am also pleased to see that the Minister without Portfolio, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), is on the Government Front Bench and will respond to the debate. It must be rare, if not the first time, for a Cabinet Minister to respond to a debate such as this. I take that as a good sign that the Government are at last starting to put some serious political weight behind the debate about securing a very good deal for Britain in the trade negotiations between the EU and the US.
It is seven months since the House last debated the transatlantic trade and investment partnership. That debate was also secured and led from the Back Benches by members of the all-party group. It took place in July, just a week before the first round of negotiations began. Since then, there has been very strong progress, with three rounds of negotiations and a fourth round set for next month. The European Commission has taken the unprecedented step of setting up an advisory panel of business, trade union and consumer interests, and of freezing any discussion on dispute resolution while it conducts consultation. We have seen a level of political and media attention on both sides of the Atlantic that is markedly and unprecedentedly up on that for these sorts of deals in the past. Last week, we had a top-level political stock-take led by Commissioner de Gucht and US trade representative Michael Froman on progress so far.
Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): In the light of his remarks, will my hon. Friend explain why, in our trading with the other 27 states, we have run a deficit, according to the last figures, of £49 billion, whereas with the rest of the world we run a surplus of around £13 billion, which is likely to rise by the end of this year to about £25 billion on the same goods and services?
Mr Walter: As always my hon. Friend asks an incisive question that deserves an answer, which is that if we successfully negotiate this deal—which is with another 20% of the world—it can only be advantageous to open up those markets in the United States, Canada and other countries to UK businesses. There are other deals under discussion and in place that would mean that we would be more than halfway towards achieving our goal of world free trade. Do not let us throw that away. Our membership of the EU is too good to throw away and, in my view, the transatlantic trade and investment partnership is too good a deal to reject.
Mr Cash: Before my right hon. and learned Friend concludes, will he elucidate on the point he made earlier?
Mr Clarke: Which point I made earlier?
Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. Is the Minister giving way?
Mr Clarke indicated assent.
Mr Cash: It was with respect to the question of transparency and the fast-track arrangements. As my right hon. and learned Friend knows, President Obama, in his State of the Union address, called for fast-track arrangements. The next day, the Democratic leader in the Senate turned down the idea. Indeed, Nancy Pelosi, the minority Democratic Leader in the House of Representatives, turned it down only last week. Was my right hon. Friend being a little sanguine in his assessment of the position, and does he have any up-to-date information to give us today?
Mr Clarke: I said only that the timing of fast track authority would have an effect on the timing of any agreement. I follow these matters closely. Obviously, they are utterly beyond our control. This is a political issue in Congress. There is more support in both Houses of Congress for a trade agreement with the EU than I can remember in my political career, but people have reservations and of course many people in Congress would rather see all the details before they approve it rather than give too early authority. The problem is that no one will ever settle a negotiation with a US Administration on the basis that Congress might be able to suggest detailed amendments to it afterwards as a condition of approval. It would be improper for me to start offering opinions about how it is going to go with the United States, but the timing of fast track authority is a little uncertain. The doubts are more provoked by the Pacific partnership agreement than the TTIP. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) said a few moments ago, the two are slightly linked when it comes to American debate.