Friends may be aware of the ongoing negotiations regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a free trade deal between the EU and the US. The European Commission negotiates on behalf of the EU, with a direction approved by the heads of national governments of the EU Member States, within the context of an EU drive to create more economic growth in Europe.
Earlier this month, the European Parliament planned to consider its recommendations to the European Commission regarding TTIP. On the 28th of May, the International Trade Committee of the European Parliament voted on a report and recommendations for TTIP, with input from five other committees. All of these committees called for the controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS) to be excluded. The trade committee, however, yesterday approved a resolution which asks for ISDS in TTIP albeit in another, refurbished, form. (A list of how each MEP on the International Trade Committee voted can be found here, and the report as adopted is here on the committee webpage.)
The implications of ISDS concern many people, and implementing a revised version with a different name is not necessarily going to solve these issues. For example, there is evidence that TTIP has already affected pesticide legislation in the EU. In addition, the EU-US free trade agreement is expected to include ‘regulatory cooperation‘. This mechanism would allow business interests, prior to laws being enacted, to shape regulation which may not benefit the public interest. It was recently revealed that measures to protect people from health risks by exposure to pesticides were shelved due to pressure from US companies. This highlights the risk to well-being of the general population.
A vote on the 10 June in the plenary sitting of the Parliament was postponed, as was the debate. It is not yet clear what the timeline might be, but it is expected that the earliest this vote could come back to plenary is September 2015. Below you can find background information and some points to include in a letter or e-mail to your MEPs.
Why are we asking you to write a letter?
Like many people, MEPs tend to take letters (or e-mails) addressed to them individually more seriously, as they reflect that the writer took time to set down their views. Online petitions can be useful, but the ease of ‘clicktivism’ is well known and can lessen your impact. QCEA suggests sending an e-mail or a letter to your MEPs asking them to vote to protect public interest by preventing the codification of investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms in the EU-US free trade deal, TTIP.
What you might include in your letter
The Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism is very unpopular with many European people, and there are many problems with the version of ISDS implemented in many treaties. It was originally designed to protect investors in countries without the Rule of Law, where local courts might be subject to corruption and power grabs. Both the Member States of the EU and the US have the Rule of Law, but this same solution is now being suggested to address the fact that various states in the US, and countries in the EU, have different laws.
Some MEPs are saying they are against ISDS when in fact they are voting for a ‘reformed’ ISDS. However, the ‘fixes’ may not be sufficient – nor helpful – and surely a huge trade agreement is not the forum to test what might improve ISDS. Cases taken under ISDS are increasing, as reported by Friends of the Earth.
There are some questions that need to be answered first. What are the risks from which investors would need protection? Are investors the most vulnerable elements of our society which need protection? Or are they powerful actors who should be encouraged to act for public policy, based on the concept that they should help create a better society, rather than focus only on profit for the small subset of society who are their shareholders?
There is a lot of fear-mongering about the lack of ISDS. For example, some claim that the US is insisting on it (although they have a 2004 free trade treaty with Australia without ISDS), and some are claiming that the economic benefits predicted under TTIP will be undermined as investors will be frightened away. This prediction is completely contradictory to the fact that investments between the EU and USA have grown to over €3,000 billion without ISDS in any form – reformed or otherwise. (This argument also circumvents the fact that the predicted economic benefits of TTIP are disputed – so for a deal that may not even benefit most Europeans, we risk considerably lessening our democratic governance.)
Please write to your MEPs as soon as you can! For more information, please get in touch with Alexandra Bosbeer (abosbeer [at] qcea dot org).
Links to more information
Concept paper from Trade Commissioner Malmström to the European Parliament
Friends of the Earth about the potential regulatory cooperation effect on national legislation in EU Member States