Ploumen values trade union federations’ views on TTIP

Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen is continuing her dialogue with trade unions and other civil society organisations about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US. The Minister met with representatives of the trade union federations CNV, FNV and VCP on Wednesday to discuss the impact of the EU/US free trade agreement on employment. ‘Their knowledge and expertise carry great weight,’ she said. ‘By involving all stakeholders in the TTIP we can ultimately achieve the best result from the negotiations.’

Since the negotiations began, Ms Ploumen has stressed the importance of consultation and transparency, and called on all parties to contribute their thinking to the TTIP. ‘This is an agreement between the world’s two biggest trading blocs and it could have a major impact. That’s why we must all make our voices heard. By engaging in dialogue with consumers, civil society and business, we can arrive at a TTIP that enjoys broad support in the Netherlands.’

The Minister welcomed the outcomes of the public consultation on investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which the European Commission presented yesterday. ‘The fact that many of the responses expressed concern shows that people feel that this affects them,’ she said. The European Commission has taken major steps to enhance the transparency of the TTIP process. For instance, last week many of the negotiating documents were posted online. ‘It would help build support if the US were to follow this example, allowing everyone to see what’s going on,’ Ms Ploumen said.

The agreement is intended to eliminate unnecessary trade barriers between the EU and the US, thereby boosting trade between the two blocs. As an exporting country, the Netherlands is expected to reap substantial benefits. ‘Trade barriers such as tariffs, procedural differences and customs clearance delays have a particularly large impact now on SMEs,’ the Minister said. ‘Eliminating these unnecessary obstacles will make trading with the US simpler and generate more employment.’ Research by Ecorys has shown that the TTIP will boost the Dutch economy by between €1.4 and 4.1 billion. Agriculture, chemicals, high-tech industries, postal services, finance and the maritime sectors stand to benefit most.

Ms Ploumen’s talks with the trade union federations were prompted by concerns about the agreement’s potential negative impact on employment in certain sectors. ‘I want to know which sectors we’re talking about and how we can help them,’ the Minister said. She agrees with trade unions that the TTIP cannot be allowed to undermine the high labour law standards enshrined in Dutch law. The free trade agreement with Canada (CETA) includes a clause guaranteeing that the parties retain control over employment policy, and the European Commission aims to include a similar clause in the TTIP. The Minister will consult the trade union federations more often about the TTIP in the period ahead.