Our challenge: to raise public awareness and action around trade deals, corporate buy-outs and other political decisions that affect our economy, jobs and ability to find solutions to grand challenges like climate change, our ageing population and the digital revolution.
Our goals: to increase transparency and accountability; to empower citizens to challenge those making deals on their behalf; to ensure that ‘free trade’ is liberating for everyone, not just those with power.
Trade Deal Watch was launched in August 2016, shortly after the UK’s EU referendum. The public had voted for the UK to leave the European Union and so the UK was going to have a lot of trade negotiations to conduct.
The government was full of bombast. David Davis, prominent pro-Brexit MP, declared,
Be under no doubt: we can do deals with our trading partners, and we can do them quickly. I would expect the new prime minister on 9 September to immediately trigger a large round of global trade deals with all our most favoured trade partners. I would expect that the negotiation phase of most of them to be concluded within between 12 and 24 months.David Davis, Conservative Home on 14 July 2016
And Michael Gove, prominent and perennial Cabinet member said, despite all expert opinion,
The day after we vote to leave, we hold all the cardsMichael Gove, 6 April 2016
Amongst the nationalist sentiment that ‘they need us more than we need them’ and the bold claims that international trade deals could be signed and completed at break-neck speeds was the sense that there would be little democratic oversight of these new, fast deals.
During the uproar surrounding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), citizens across the whole of the EU, including the UK, had been concerned about secret courts (ISDS) and loss of democratic control over political decisions. The UK had been the last EU member to protect its health service from TTIP, had been the biggest advocates for the US negotiating position and had solidly resisted parliamentary oversight of the local ratification process.
This belief in ‘executive power’ and lack of democratic oversight for trade deals had been repeated with the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) where Liam Fox (pro-Brexit minister responsible for new trade deals) had resisted giving the UK Parliament a say on the deal.
Against this backdrop of anti-expert, jingoistic, executive power-grabs and economic extremism, Trade Deal Watch was born.