Phil Wilson MP was joined by prominent politicians and around 70 North East business leaders on Friday at Business Durham's breakfast event to discuss the developments of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal.
Key note speakers included John Healey MP, Judith Kirton-Darling MEP, Neil Foster (TUC) and James Neel (US Embassy).
Phil opened the event, welcoming the conversation about TTIP, highlighting the importance of trade to the region and outlining the reasons why the debate about TTIP was essential.
Judith Kirton-Darling MEP, the Labour Member of European Parliament for the North East of England and a member of the EU trade committee, gave a presentation on the broader context of TTIP, explaining the position of the Labour Party and the work undertaken by Labour MEPs to influence the negotiations from Brussels in order secure the best possible outcome.
Neil Foster, the Policy and Campaigns Office for the TUC, provided the trade union's perspective on TTIP and James Neel of the US Embassy outlined the background and development of the partnership and the potential benefits it could bring to businesses in the UK and US.
The speeches were followed by a lively debate with questions coming from the floor on broad range of topics including insurance, the types of business that would be excluded from the deal and the likelihood of the completion of the deal under a new US administration or a new UK government.
Here’s are few excerpts from the respective speeches:
Phil Wilson MP
“Welcome to NetPark at the heart of my constituency; a fitting venue for this conference, because it oozes optimism and confidence in the future, which I believe is at the heart of what we are to discuss today.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, sounds like a very esoteric concept, without wide appeal, but I know how important it is by the fact this conference is oversubscribed and reveals how central the issue of TTIP is to the North East business community.
I know there is a long way to go but I'd rather be at the table negotiating the deal rather than away from it.
That is why I have no hesitation in saying up front that Britain’s role is as an active participant in the European Union to get the best deal for Britain, it's people and economy. Uncertainty on our position in Europe is not good for business.
I do not want to see the UK away from the negotiating table on such a potentially historic agreement as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
When I first thought of asking Business Durham and the North East Chamber of Commerce to organise this event, I did so because I believe the UK faces a choice on our place in the world.
Are we to be pessimistic and pull up the draw bridge on the rest of the world or are we to be optimistic and embrace the world with all its faults and try and change it?"
You can read Phil's speech in full here.
Judith Kirton-Darling MEP
“It's absolutely crucial that we talk about TTIP. As your MEP I'll have to vote on the deal once it's finalised and I simply cannot make such an important call on my own.
While negotiations are ongoing, I also have the opportunity to pass on messages to the negotiators and as such to influence the process. So I'm gathering a lot of information to be able to best defend the interests of the region in the negotiations. I've talked to everyone that has reached out to me since being elected. I've organised public meetings across the region on the issue and took part in countless debates, and I'm very happy to be here today to be able to listen to what Durham's businesses have to say about TTIP.
To start off – what is TTIP? Eighteen months ago, the EU (with the agreement of all 28 EU trade ministers) and the USA launched negotiations for a colossal trade and investment agreement, which if finalised would cover 50% of global production and nearly half of global trade. Any deal will effectively set global standards for trade, especially if the World Trade Organisation’s multilateral trade talks remain blocked.
TTIP stands out as a very ambitious trade deal, not just in terms of its geographical reach, but also in terms of its ambition.
This deal is not only about tariffs and quotas. In fact, the biggest gains for business are expected in the field of what's called 'non-tariff-barriers', that is how we can ensure regulatory consistency across the Atlantic to make it easier for both sides to trade with one another.
Virtually all sectors of the economy are up for discussion, and if TTIP delivers on its ambitions it would be the most comprehensive trade agreement ever."
You can read Judith's speech in full here.
Neil Foster (TUC)
"Here in the North East we know only too well about the importance of trade. We’re a small but perfectly formed region built on what we can produce and share.
History tells our story best of all. In the 13th century Newcastle was the leading English exporter for leather. In the 14th century the first shipyard opened in Sunderland whose exports for centuries would reach every shore. Our coal fuelled the industrial revolution. In the 18th century the ironworks in Bedlington produced the metal for railways around the world as well as for the historic Stockton and Darlington first steam powered railway.
Fast forward to the 21st century we come the full circle with Hitachi’s train manufacturing plant not only providing the Intercity Express Programme carriages but competing for contracts across Europe from their new manufacturing centre in Newton Aycliffe. The Northern TUC was proud to campaign with Phil, the council, employers and the community to bring rail manufacturing to its rightful home.
You can read Neil's speech in full here.