As an entrepreneur, I know how difficult it can be to set up and run a successful business. To do this against a backdrop of the biggest companies in the world having an unfair advantage is a sure-fire way to threaten our vibrant business sector.
This is just one of the many reasons why the EU-US trade deal TTIP is a major threat to small and medium-sized business in the UK and Europe. And that's why I've joined with other British business owners to launch the initiative, Business Against TTIP.
TTIP places our businesses under threat: it will force us into unfair competition with US firms with lower standards and lower costs, with the predicted loss of at least 680,000 jobs across Europe.
We know that TTIP means our higher European standards are under threat undermining the social, health and environmental standards that we enjoy in Europe.
And we believe that our democracy itself is under threat: through the "investor-state dispute settlement" (ISDS) process, US companies will be given a special private justice system where they can challenge any new laws in Europe affecting their profits.
The small and medium-sized business sector is critical to the UK economy. We account for more than 99 per cent of the private sector and we provide jobs for more than 15 million people. Our gross value add to the British economy is £339 billion.
But only 0.5 per cent of SMEs in the UK and 0.7 per cent of our businesses across Europe engage in trade with the USA, and the value of those exported goods and services is less than 2 per cent of the added value produced by European SMEs as a whole. And while the bulk of European SME exporting is to other European countries, this could be severely damaged by TTIP's threat of a significant diversion of trade within Europe.
We are in good company with other businesses against TTIP. Almost 2,000 businesses in Germany and another 2,000 in Austria have already come together to say they don't want this deal. They join more than 3.3 million people across Europe who have called for an immediate end to negotiations, trade unions, artists and an unprecedented ten UN Independent Experts who have voiced fears for the future of human rights under trade deals like TTIP.
In Germany, a large majority of small businesses feel their interests are not represented in a secretive deal geared to meeting the needs of the world's biggest corporations – a deal designed to ensure that small businesses in Europe are given no advantage by our governments over US corporations. As a consequence, when Reuters asked these businesses whether they want TTIP, the answer was categorical: "Nein Danke."
The Belgian business association UCM, which represents small and medium-sized businesses from the French-speaking area of the country, says our businesses "have nothing to win from this deal. On the contrary, in its present form, it brings dangers".
This message is now clearly reverberating across Europe, as people become more aware of the threat posed by TTIP to our businesses, society and environment. We hope they join Business Against TTIP in opposing this dangerous deal.
Titus Sharpe is CEO of MVF Global and 2015 Entrepreneur of the Year.
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