Corporate interests central to UK negotiating objectives for US trade deal

3 March 2020 - 11:15am
Press release


Government sets negotiating objectives for free trade deal with US with ‘corporate interests’ at its centre

  • No commitments on climate
  • No guarantees on protecting the NHS, workers’ rights or food standards
  • Risks giving more power to tech giants

The government yesterday published negotiating objectives for a trade deal with the US. Last night in Parliament, Liz Truss promised that the government would walk away from a deal that did not meet their standards, but trade campaigners say that the negotiating objectives set the bar low, prioritising “corporate interests”, and “sacrificing” our rights and standards.

Although climate is mentioned in the documents, the government does not make any commitments. The objectives set out do not make it clear that environmental standards and climate commitments will take precedence over trade rules, despite Parliament’s declaration of an ‘environment and climate emergency’.

Leah Sullivan, Senior Campaigns Officer for Trade at War on Want, said:

“The government has confirmed that it is ready to sacrifice our rights, NHS, food standards, climate and democracy at the altar of free trade fundamentalism. The negotiating objectives fail to provide guarantees on the things that are most critical to people and planet, setting a course for a deal with corporate interests at its centre. We must stop it now.”

The documents also contain no guarantees and no detail on protecting the NHS, or food and farming standards. This means a deal would likely mean importing food and other products made to the lower US standards, including chicken washed in chlorine, which trade campaigners flagged as a major concern in the defeated US–EU trade deal, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The language on digital trade and trade in financial services indicates a win for big US tech companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google, which would be protected from regulation. The government has said it wants to “prevent unjustified data localisation requirements”; allowing data to be freely exported means a loss of potential for local development, and can undermine data privacy. These kinds of rules have created the possibility for unscrupulous actors to use companies to mine data to swing elections, as was seen in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The financial services industry has been lobbying to have its interests served through a US–UK trade deal and will be happy to see the government has laid out plans to “[expand] co-operation on financial regulatory issues”. The innocuous sounding ‘regulatory cooperation’ language could mean letting corporate lobbyists set regulatory agendas, which could lead to a weakening of democratic decision-making and significant harm to the public interest.

Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) is clearly on the table in this deal, suggesting that US and UK governments will remain champions of these ‘corporate courts’, which allow companies to sue governments for decisions they say could threaten their profits. Charities and other civil society groups have warned that “ISDS is a dangerous threat to human rights, health and the environment”.

Currently, there is no process for parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals, as MPs do not get to vote on the final deal.

The trade-off offered is small: the paper suggests that the net benefit to the UK might amount to 0.07% of GDP, or 0.16% at most, in 15 years’ time.


Press Contact

TJ Chuah, Communication Officer: | 0798 355 0728

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