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Post-Brexit trade deal could allow US firms to 'run riot' in NHS, claim campaigners.

A PROPOSED post-Brexit trade deal with the US could allow big American companies to "run riot" in the NHS and threaten food standards, campaigners have warned.

Donald Trump's administration has published negotiating objectives for a deal which include demands for full market access for US drug firms and a block on state institutions - such as the NHS - discriminating against American companies when purchasing goods and services.

The document also seeks "comprehensive market access" for US agricultural products through the reduction or removal of tariffs and the elimination of "unwarranted barriers" to food and drink imports.

The Department for International Trade welcomed the paper, published by the office of US trade representative Robert Lighthizer, as a sign that Washington is keen to start talks soon after Brexit.

Liam Fox's department said the UK would insist on maintaining "high standards for businesses, workers and consumers" in any deal.

But Labour MP Jo Stevens, a supporter of the People's Vote campaign for a second referendum, said the proposed deal - which also requires the removal of restrictions on transfers of personal data - would turn the NHS into "a playpen for huge US corporate interests".

"Donald Trump's administration has now made it clear just what it will be demanding from the UK in return for a trade deal - and one of those things is that we let big US companies run riot in the NHS," said Ms Stevens.

Proposed measures would require that "US drug companies - the very corporations that have caused the opioids crisis in their home countries through reckless marketing and pressure on doctors - get full access to the NHS", she warned.

The National Farmers' Union raised concerns over food safety and animal welfare standards.

"It is imperative that any future trade deals, including a possible deal with the USA, do not allow the imports of food produced to lower standards than those required of British farmers," NFU president Minette Batters said.

"British people value and demand the high standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety that our own farmers adhere to.

"These world-leading standards must not be sacrificed in the pursuit of reaching rushed trade deals."

US companies have long complained that EU regulations limit American exports of food products such as chlorine-washed chicken, hormone-boosted beef and geneti-cally modified crops.

Mr Trump's commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, warned in 2017 that continued adherence to EU standards after Brexit could act as a "landmine" to UK hopes of a free trade deal with the States.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "We have always been very clear that we will not lower our food standards as part of a future trading agreement."

But Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron, a supporter of the Best for Britain campaign for a new referendum, said: "It's clear that the US... wants to flood us with chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-pumped beef. But the British people won't be force-fed low-quality products or a bad Brexit deal. That's why we need a public vote."

Also sensitive for London are demands for the inclusion of currency matters in any agreement.

The paper states that the US wants Britain to "avoid manipulating exchange rates in order to prevent effective balance of payments adjustment or to gain an unfair competitive advantage".
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 2, 2019
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