David Martin MEP

Labour Member of the European Parliament and one of the six MEPs representing Scotland in Brussels and Strasbourg

EU Trade Matters newsletter, May 2016


TTIP must comply with European values and standards or it will fail

This month saw the leaking of confidential documents on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations. The leak - mostly composed of so-called "consolidated documents" which include US positions - shows further progress on transparency is now entirely dependent on the US accepting EU transparency standards. Secrecy and the perception of secrecy is undermining trade policy and public trust. We need the US to rise up to the standards set by the EU.
Citizens, trade unions and NGOs have helped us secure greater transparency on the TTIP negotiations to the extent that contrary to popular perception, TTIP is now the most transparent trade negotiation in the history of the EU with all EU proposals publicly available. The leak confirms what we have known for a long time: that the US will strongly champion their interests in the negotiations. We are demanding that the EU be equally tough in upholding our values. We will not accept a TTIP that includes any lowering of standards.

Nothing in the leak indicated that the EU had complied with any of the US demands. The S&D's requirements for a progressive TTIP have been clearly spelled out on numerous occasions. We call for a deal that can contribute to creating jobs and growth in Europe whilst protecting our values and public services as well as setting high standards for workers' rights and environmental protection. TTIP must comply with European values or it will fail. Only an agreement that respects the demands of the elected representatives of the European people will have a chance of being be approved by the European Parliament.

Parental Leave Directive seeks more family friendly policies

This month Labour MEPs voted for a report calling for national governments to adopt more family friendly policies and to fully implement the parental leave directive. The report - which Conservative MEPs voted against – was seeking to modernise parental leave provisions throughout the EU and called on EU countries to introduce high-quality, accessible childcare facilities. The measures are designed to introduce a better sharing of family tasks to facilitate women participating in the job market on equal terms. The old rules were taking women out of the labour market and not letting men have the chance to be fathers. The full implementation of the parental leave directive will give millions of fathers across Europe the ability to spend quality time with their new children after birth.

Tax avoidance: Tories say one thing in public but vote the other way

Surely after the revelations of the Panama Papers we should listen to public opinion and strengthen measures to fight tax avoidance and evasion. Instead Tory MEPs are voting against these proposals and setting back efforts to bring money back to the UK Treasury.

In May Labour MEPs voted in favour of greater corporate transparency and tougher action on tax dodging. The vote came as David Cameron was hosting an anti-corruption summit in London, with the government claiming to have "led the way on tackling tax evasion and tax avoidance".

However, five times in the past 13 months, Conservative MEPs have said one thing and voted in completely the opposite way - against measures to tackle tax dodging, public country-by-country reporting of tax affairs, a common list of tax havens, a shareholders rights directive and a clampdown on tax fraud, including aggressive tax planning.

Public country-by-country reporting is where companies report exactly where they make their money and where they pay their taxes so tax authorities and taxpayers can see if they are paying their fair share. It is vital in the fight against tax avoidance and tax evasion, even more so in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal.

China: Market Economy Status and the dumping of steel

During the May Strasbourg Plenary the European Parliament voted for a Resolution opposing any unilateral granting of market economy status (MES) to China. 15 years ago, when China joined the World Trade Organisation there was an expectation that China would have become a market economy by December 2016, and thereby be granted MES.

China should not to be granted this status until their economy is one where supply, demand and prices of goods and services are determined by the market. China is not a market economy and should not be recognised as one. Granting them Market Economy Status in the current circumstances would tighten the noose around the UK steel industry's neck.

Later that week trade ministers met in Brussels to discuss a long-delayed reform of EU trade defence instruments - reforms that have been blocked for two years by a number of national governments led by the UK. The need to reform trade defence instruments, reform of the EU emissions trading scheme and the high energy costs faced by energy-intensive industries were all on the agenda. Labour MEPs believe that the EU needs to modernise trade defence measures to protect European industries, but the UK government is currently blocking vital reforms and has repeatedly refused to change its position.

Meanwhile in the USA, less than a week after it decided to impose duties of more than 500 percent on Chinese cold-rolled flat steel, the U.S. Department of Commerce has announced it will levy anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties of up to 451 percent on Chinese corrosion-resistant steel.

The more China dumps cheap steel onto the European market, the more our jobs and industry will be under threat. We cannot accept the granting of Market Economy Status to China and must insist on improving our trade defence instruments.

S&D MEPs welcome plan to modernise EU railways but call for stronger protection of workers’ rights

After years of negotiations, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU have finally agreed on reforms to Europe's railway network to allow travel between different European cities with a single ticket. The European railway system is still fragmented and it is difficult for passengers and freight services to plan and budget for journeys. This problem is to be addressed as well as improved safety standards to allow drivers and crews who perform safety-related tasks to be able to report any potential risks confidentially.

There are however still concerns about the social rights of workers in the railway sector. S&D MEPs will be looking into the political pillar of the fourth Railway Package that is due to be voted on later this year. We want to see if workers' rights have been maintained and will be looking to assess whether the social dimension has been taken on board sufficiently.

Job creation potential of tourism recognised

Tourism is a crucial engine for economic growth and job creation in many European countries, particularly during the summer. The Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament believe this sector needs investment and modernising, as well as a particular attention on seasonal workers.

In Europe, the US, and in Asia the tourism industry is seeing the biggest and fastest growth in the global economy. In Europe, tourism produces almost 10% of EU GDP and has created 25 million jobs. Socialist MEPs want those jobs to be quality jobs.
The S&D’s ‘The Tourism Manifesto for Growth and Jobs’ is a tool to maintain a structural dialogue among the institutions and industry to speak with a common voice on tourism. In order to unleash the full potential of tourism in Europe we need to lay the foundations for the sector: investing and improving transport infrastructure, developing our rich and diverse cultural networks and heritage sites, as well as protecting rural areas and nature reserves. Furthermore, we need to invest in our workers by providing excellent training opportunities.

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