What more will it take to get corporate courts out of the EU-US trade deal?
This week, the European Commission finally released the results of the consultation forced on it nearly a year ago about Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the EU-US trade deal. While not dismissing the popular opposition to ISDS, as some said she would, nor did Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom accept the overwhelming response to the consultation that ISDS should be dropped. So the campaign to exclude ISDS from TTIP – and ultimately all other trade agreements – continues, with support for giving foreign investors an unfair advantage over democratically elected governments and everyone else affected by international trade badly damaged.
Commissioner Malmstrom announced further consultations over the issue, further work on the Commission’s favoured ISDS model to make it more acceptable, and essentially pushed back the negotiations over ISDS with the US towards the end of the process.
After meeting her on Thursday, ETUC General Secretary Bernadette Segol said:
“I have never heard anyone claim that the lack of special legal procedures for investors was barrier to US companies investing in the EU or vice-versa. So why is ISDS necessary? It is hard to understand why the Commission does not simply drop ISDS and concentrate on a TTIP which has some hope being ratified by the European Parliament and member states.”
Many organisations – including members of the Commission’s TTIP advisory committee – argued that the overwhelming opposition from respondents to the consultation (over 145,000 of the 150,000 responses were from individuals who used tools designed by unions and NGOs to express complete opposition to including ISDS in TTIP) should have led the Commission to abandon ISDS outright, and there is already a new e-action to allow people to express that view (the TUC urges you to add your name to that effort.)
The Commission argues that the consultation was not a referendum and that we somehow cheated by encouraging people to register their opposition by using new technology (the Commission even suggested there was something dodgy about all the trade union submissions being broadly similar, hardly unusual for a movement founded on the idea that unity is strength!) There could be no clearer indication that the Commission is clutching at straws. And I doubt they would have expressed such fastidiousness had the result gone the way they wanted!
The Commission is under pressure from European governments – including the UK, despite the fact that a full third of the opponents of ISDS were British – who insist that the original negotiating mandate, which includes investor protection, should over-ride the results of the consultation (which was skewed against registering outright opposition from the start.) But the French and German governments are now understood to be working together to get ISDS dropped, and the European Parliament international trade committee (INTA) is also gearing up to demand the same, especially the Greens and the Socialists & Democrats. INTA will receive the report of the consultation on Thursday, but Commissioner Malmstrom isn’t even going to bother to turn up!
So the campaign against ISDS continues, and we need to continue pressing the British government to accept the will expressed by UK respondents to the consultation and the civil society organisations opposing the deal – unions, NGOs and consumers, as well as academics and jurists. MPs from several parties expressed their concerns in a Parliamentary debate secured by Geraint Davies MP on Thursday. The European Parliament needs to be pressed to make good its threat to oppose TTIP if ISDS is included, and we need to mobilise and add to the opposition of EU governments. Opposition in the US would also be very useful, so more power to the elbows of the US trade union movement and NGOs there, as well as Congressional Democrats who share their concerns.