Grant Shapps’ TTIP delusions

The Conservative Party chairman has made his claims based on half truths and assumptions


My local MP, Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps, has written an article in today’s City AM about the planned EU-US trade deal which includes so many rosy-tinted assumptions, so many exaggerated claims and so many half-truths that you might think he had something to hide about the deal.

He even refers to free trade as being “magic”, delivering such abundant benefits for everyone with no drawbacks at all that it would be madness to question the deal which is currently under negotiation. Mind you, from a politician whose very name is as malleable as Michael Green (sorry, Grant Shapps), this may not be his greatest flight of fantasy!

The TUC believes that more trade would be good for the economy, good for jobs and good for wages. But we aren’t gullible enough to believe that trade agreements are the same as increased trade, and we aren’t over-optimistic enough to ignore the disadvantages as well as the benefits that increased trade can bring, which need to be addressed.

Here are eight areas where Grant Shapps’ article falls foul of reality.

First, he is mostly selling the idea of a tariff-reduction trade deal, and most of the worst problems with the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) result from the elements that aren’t about tariffs at all. TTIP might well lower protections like health and safety rules, consumer and environmental standards. It would, as currently proposed, give US investors extra powers and new courts in which to sue our government for actions that might just possibly disadvantage those investors, far beyond the breaches of contracts that everyone accepts should be compensable.

Second, he’s right that reducing tariffs between two advanced economies like the EU and the USA would probably, on balance, be beneficial – and it would certainly be good for some specific sectors where tariffs remain high. But tariffs overall between the EU and USA are pretty small (customs duties on all US imported goods to the UK in 2013 amounted to about £30m.) So while tariff reductions would reduce prices for consumers and make our exported goods cheaper in the USA so they are more likely to sell better, consumers in the UK won’t be that much better off.

Indeed, the increase in VAT that Grant’s government imposed shortly after taking office raised prices for consumers by far more across the board than scrapping all tariffs on US goods would reduce them (total VAT and other duties on US imports in 2013 were about £14bn!)

And third, of course, dropping those tariffs wouldn’t be entirely cost free to the UK. That £30m lost in tariff revenue will mean £30m less money for government, which means £30m more cuts in services, public sector pay and so on.

So if US-UK import tariffs raise just £30m, where does Grant get his headline-grabbing predictions that TTIP would create up to 2m jobs, boost the economy by £10bn a year, and make the average British family £400 better off?

Fourth in my list is that the jobs he implies would be created in the UK are actually higher than the most optimistic assessment of job creation due to TTIP across the European Union as a whole (1.3m). But possibly, Grant is putting that figure (generally held to be absurdly optimistic) together with what the British government claims would be created in the US (740,000).

The figure for job creation in the UK would be much smaller. My fifth point is that there are similarly robust economic studies – or similarly weak, given the enormous assumptions involved in any economic modelling – that suggest there would be overall job losses as a result of TTIP! Grant Shapps doesn’t even acknowledge these, let alone address the concerns they raise.

Sixth: the study he is quoting to claim that the British economy would be boosted by £10bn a year actually says £4bn to £10bn, depending on how far the agreement goes. Only by scrapping up to 75 per cent of the actionable non-tariff barriers to trade (ie regulations) could you increase the UK economy by his claim, which amounts to 0.5 per cent GDP growth for our roughly £2 trillion economy.

Even a £4bn boost to the UK economy would be worthwhile (representing 0.2 per cent growth), but even that would require more than the increase in trade due to tariff reductions.

Seventh, the European Commission claim that the average European family would be €545 a year better off, or £400 a year at the current exchange rate, is based, again, on the widest possible trade deal which would have the greatest impact on regulatory standards (the £30m reduction in tariffs on US goods entering the UK would reduce the average UK family annual shopping bill by less than £2, or 4p a week.)

And these are averages, of course, although at the end of his article he implies every British family would be £400 a year better off. The last ten years shows that average improvements in living standards usually describe a situation where the richest get all the gains, leaving the average family no better or even worse off. Still, it’s nice to know your loss is someone richer’s gain, eh?

I will gloss over his bombastic assertion that it is “enterprise, capitalism and free trade” that has raised living standards globally to their current level since the Stone Age (yep, the NHS, state education, scientific discoveries have had no impact at all. All down to free enterprise. On this logic, slavery and war have had a major positive impact too!)

And my last concern, saving the worst for last, is his claim that “our NHS will be completely protected” from TTIP, basing his assertion on the pledges of the European Commission. Most recently, EU trade commissioner Malmstrom has written to UK trade minister Lord Livingston to assert that the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process that privileges foreign investors over democratically-elected governments will have no impact on the NHS (in which case, I’m not sure why politicians like Grant are so insistent on including ISDS in the deal.)

But this is just her prediction of how the courts (and the unaccountable, unchallengeable ISDS tribunals) will react to cases. It isn’t a guarantee. If she wanted to provide such certainty, she could simply exclude the NHS and public services generally from both the services and investment chapters of TTIP – and the UK government could demand that from the Commission, as the French government did over cultural industries. Why should we trust what Grant Shapps and Cecilia Malmstrom are only predicting when they are unwilling to take the step that would guarantee that end?

What Grant Shapps is doing is a dangerous game for a politician to play. He is knowingly over-promising the benefits that TTIP might deliver, ignoring completely the need to address the downsides that will result, and dismissing justified concerns about the impact of creating new rights for foreign investors with no counter-balancing protections for citizens, consumers or workers.

Owen Tudor is the head of European Union and International Relations at the TUC

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22 Responses to “Grant Shapps’ TTIP delusions”

  1. Tim Thomson

    I am a keen European (given always that there is plenty about Europe that needs to be reformed) but if TTIP goes ahead, even in an approximate version of its present form, I would be in favour of UK leaving Europe. Existing trade agreements, particularly NAFTA, lead me to believe that the benefits, such as they are, accrue to the wealthy, the transnational corporations and the legacy-seeking politicians. The rest are thoroughly disadvantaged.

  2. sarntcrip

    schapps of the dodgy internet scams wouldn’t know the truth if he drowned in it

  3. sarntcrip

    at a time instability in russia/ukraine leaving the eu, indeed showing any disunity with our european
    colleagues would be precisely the wrong thing to do!

  4. Tim Thomson

    That ship has already sailed, coutesy of D Cameron Esq.

  5. Leon Wolfeson

    Again, TTIP is beloved of the British right, so you are arguing for unilaterally accepting it.

  6. Tim Thomson

    No. I am arguing that if the far right did win in Europe on this issue, then in order to maintain our standards we would need to escape from the constraints of TTIP, presumably by coming out of Europe.

  7. Leon Wolfeson

    You say that “escaping” it by going into a situation where the government would sign right back up for it is a good thing. That’s completely illogical, and hence I believe you’re just after leaving Europe.

    How exactly *are* you going to move the UK to the American shores, I must ask?

  8. Tim Thomson

    I must be expressing myself really badly, since my views, and your interpretation of them, are diametrically opposed to each other!

  9. Leon Wolfeson

    The reality is that there’s no meaningful opposition to TTIP at the level of the UK government – the opposition has and is coming in the EU Parliament from the left. (including some of Labour’s MEP’s)

    Leaving the EU would be highly counter-productive in opposing TTIP and the like!

  10. Tim Thomson

    Of course. My contention is simply that if TTIP goes through, when opposition would have failed, then maintaining UK standards, and protecting our institutions may only be possible outside the TTIP umbrella, which implies European exit. It is unfortunate and short-sighted that all established UK parties appear to favour the agreement.

  11. Kris Rosvold

    Bottom line folks; the only thing we can really know about the T.P. “treaties” is what’s been leaked. So what do we have? A “trade agreement” which allows corporations to sue nations for “lost profits” due to “trade barriers” (like consumer protection laws) using a panel of “judges” selected by those corporations… Think about that for a moment, and let it really sink in. Is it just me or does that sound like “justice” by the wealthy for the wealthy.

    My suggestion would be to demand to see the full treaty any time they make patently ridiculous claims like this. As we all know, things which are “negotiated by politicians, in total secrecy almost always screw over the Citizens.
    Doubt me? Take a good look at how the U.S. Health “Care” Act worked out… our insurance premiums doubled over the two year run up before the law, and still haven’t come down.

    Here’s the only appropriate thing to say to these liars: ” If it’s so damned “wonderful”… let’s see it, all of it, now! The only valid reason for such secrecy is that it’s so bad, they’re afraid they’d get lynched if We knew what was actually in it.

    Bottom line #2: Obummer has made it blatantly clear that he fully intends to ram this corporate fascist power grab down our throats whether We like it or not…. follow the money!

  12. Leon Wolfeson

    No, driving the UK across the atlantic isn’t the answer.
    Again, you would put us right into the hands of those who favour TTIP, and would have far more freedom outside the *EU* to impose slashes in basic rights.

  13. Leon Wolfeson

    Keep being pissed off at democracy and at the poor being able to get healthcare.

    It’s not the same thing at all, and it’s your kind of fauxnomics which caused a depression here. I’m sad to hear you hate America, but there’s absolutely no other interpretation of your economic views.

  14. Kris Rosvold

    Um… Leon,
    I love my nation, in point of Fact I’m a Navy Veteran; it’s the bribed and treasonous government I despise.
    Note carefully that it’s not just Obama I have a problem with, though he has made the most noise about ramming this fiat power grab by multinational corporations down the throats of Citizen’s whether we like it or not.

    My issue is with the 500/535 (of BOTH parties) who actively screw over Citizens and Constitution in favor of corporate profits.

    That’s my beef with Obama on the T.P. “treaties” they would gut all of our legitimate and necessary regulations protecting Citizens.

    On the issue you objected to my excoriation of… Health “insurance”:
    Had any part of our selected “representatives” been actually doing their jobs of representing the interests of Citizens we would have had universal health care (the so called “Public Option”).
    Instead what we got was an absolute boondoggle for “insurance” companies, and the Public Option gutted out of the law before Citizens even got a chance to look at, much less discuss, or have any kind of debate about it.

    Here’s what they “gave” us instead:
    A system which actively prevents competition in any valid meaning of the word by mandating that all people buy insurance and use an utterly broken, fraudulent, health “care” system with “insurance” providing precisely zero protection from bankruptcy due to one medical event.

    By allowing the existing health “care”companies to “determine” the rates and services of their prospective competitors. (Certificate of Need laws… which directly violate the Sherman Act BTW)

    None of this power grab was approved by Citizens in any way, but was “negotiated” entirely in back rooms with lots of representatives for corporations deciding how to divide the pie and NOT ONE person to look out for Citizens.

    I now (after PPACA) have health “insurance” which costs me at least 4× what my actual, direct costs would be without it, in addition to what the deductable costs me every year. Since I’m healthy, I never meet the deductible ($2500) thus making this mafia style “insurance” utterly useless and a complete, blatant rip off. Pre PPACA I paid about $1500 total per year. After, I pay about $6000 ($4000 in “insurance” premium) including the deductable with the insurance companies’ magic math (discussed in my linked answer and the comments to it)

    I blame Obama for this because he and Boehner both went on national T.V. absolutely crowing about how “We got everything we wanted.” after gutting out the ONE provision which would have actually lowered health care costs, and leaving in place the Bush “reforms which prohibit Medicare from negotiating, or even looking at, drug costs and durable equipment costs.

    Note for the record, it’s not Obama that I despise, it’s the entire bribed into corporate fascisim system of government which blatantly screws over Citizens, Our Constitution, and Our Nation in favor of the profits of their corporate bribers.

    Last…. on P.P.A.C.A. Here’s the bribery:
    Results 1–100 of 24,883 contributions totaling $34,799,140 for election cycles 2006, 2014. Contributions data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics.

    Did you get that… in just two years there was over $34 Million in corporate bribery of Our Congresscritters.

    Bottom line: They aren’t, ANY of them, working for Us!

  15. Leon Wolfeson

    Keep making excuses, as you keep demanding the poor not get decent healthcare. Your excuses for buying health insurance from the Mafia or whatever isn’t my issue.

  16. Kris Rosvold

    Wow… so all you’ve got in the face of Fact is Straw Man, and Ad. Hom. arguments.
    *slow clapping*

    If you’d even bothered to read anything I wrote, you’d know that I want health care for ALL my fellow citizens.

    Just sign your stuff TL:CR.

  17. Guest

    I read a rant against the change which has given people health insurance, but hey, you keep on trying to roll back things then saying “but I want the same end results, really”. Sadf.

    But no, you know your FAXTS as you rail against Obama.

    Just sign your copy/pasted rant “From the Desk of Sarah Palin”. (Yes, yes, I went there)

  18. James Bickerton

    What’s he got to lose? If he’s proved horribly wrong, what remedies might we have against him? None ! He will just walk away, with at least £100,000 in his pocket when he ceases to be an MP and receives a year’s salary plus about £30,000 ‘relocation’ expenses ‘from a grateful nation’. While we, Joe Public, will still be in the TTIP firing line for years to come, open to being sued by the private sector for £millions, maybe £billions. We don’t want TTIP at all, especially not with ISDS clauses in it, and not even if the NHS is ring fenced out.

  19. John

    Sad, but true, which is why supporting the opposition to TTIP is so important.

  20. sarntcrip


  21. sarntcrip


  22. Kris Rosvold

    Whoops… back up. I want Medicare for ALL. Not a stripped $300/ mo health “insurance” plan.

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