A controversial proposed trade treaty between Europe and the US will not negatively impact the NHS or give US health companies new ways of legally challenging health service procurement processes, a government minister has insisted.
Minister of state for trade and investment Lord Livingston repeatedly stressed during a media briefing on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that the NHS would “not be impacted” by the trade agreement.
The minister from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills rejected calls by Labour to exclude the NHS from the deal. The Labour Party had said the partnership would open up the health service to private firms and leave it vulnerable to legal challenges from US health companies to their contract decisions.
He said: “There is absolutely no need to exclude the NHS [from the partnership] because it will not be impacted; we have been clear about that as a government.
“It will not create a new set of rights [by which American firms can challenge procurement decisions made by clinical commissioning groups].”
The former BT Group chief executive said he expected the European Union and US to agree the terms of the trade deal “in the next calendar year”.
It would then be subject to votes in the EU parliament and in the parliaments of all EU member states.
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Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has called for the NHS to be exempt from the trade agreement.
A statement from the department said: “[The partnership] will not undermine the principles of the National Health Service.
“The governement is committed that it will remain free at the point ofuse based on patients’ needs, not ability to pay.
“It must always be for the UK to decide for itself whether or not to open up our public services to competition.”
The department said that a “successful [partnership] could boost the UK economy by as much as £10bn each year” by removing barriers of entry and tariffs that UK companies currently pay when they trade in the US.
“[The partnership] will make it easier for businesses in the EU to access a market of more than 300 million American consumers.
“It will reduce remaining trade tariffs on nearly all trade. This includes the 10 per cent tariff on cars, with further savings on clothing, food, drink and consumer electronics.”