TTIP: EU parliament vote paves way for new ISDS
MEPs have approved parliament's TTIP recommendations to the commission after delay in voting.
Parliament has adopted its recommendations to the commission on the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP), with 436 votes in favour, 241 against and 32 abstentions.
The vote had originally been scheduled for June's plenary session, but was postponed at the last minute by parliament president Martin Schulz.
The official reason given was that there were too many amendments to get through, but behind the scenes many believed that tensions within parliament's Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group were mostly to blame.
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MEPs were split over provisions in the report for some form of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism, one of the most controversial topics in the TTIP debate.
Now, parliament has called for a mechanism which would be "subject to democratic principles and scrutiny" and where cases would be dealt with by "publicly appointed, independent professional judges [in] public hearings", reads the text.
There had previously been fears that ISDS would rely on private arbitration, giving corporations too much power over national governments.
MEPs have also recommended high levels of protection for EU consumer data and health and safety standards, and have asked that public services be excluded from the deal. They have also suggested there should be special treatment for sensitive agricultural and industrial products.
Additionally, deputies have stressed that in areas where EU and US rules diverge too much, there can be "no agreement" - cloning, authorising chemicals and GMOs, for example.
Rapporteur Bernd Lange said, "we are faced with a reality of unprecedented globalisation. Our citizens and workers are in the middle of this process; our companies are an integral part of global value chains. It is therefore our democratic duty to shape the rules governing globalisation in order to make it work for the benefit of the people."
"Today we have done just that. We told the commission that we won't simply accept any trade agreement they put in front of us", added the S&D deputy.
European People's Party group shadow rapporteur Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl stressed that, "the TTIP is not only about trade, it will open the door to even more investments overseas."
"Investments will only be made if they are protected and the opportunity is now for the EU and the US to negotiate a promising future model. Therefore, we see parliament's resolution not only as a message to the negotiators, but also as a positive signal to our citizens. We should go ahead with the negotiations so that we can benefit from the results very soon."
Emma McClarkin, European Conservatives and Reformists group shadow rapporteur, commented, "I welcome the fact that following weeks of parliamentary ping-pong and attempts by socialist and protectionist MEPs to derail the process we finally have a clear backing for TTIP."
"This deal can bring us the growth that Europe so desperately needs by cutting red tape and reducing tariffs, allowing businesses of all sizes to flourish in a truly open marketplace. TTIP will also be good news for the consumers of Europe, who will be able to choose from a wider range of products at a cheaper price."
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group shadow rapporteur Marietje Schaake was also pleased with the result, saying, "This resolution reflects the wishes and concerns that citizens, SMEs and businesses shared with us. We map in great detail, what we want to see in a successful TTIP."
"We have no time to lose in strengthening rules-based trade in a changing world. To avoid a race to the bottom, we welcome the commitment from the commission, that standards we cherish will not be lowered."
However, parliament's groups to the left of the political spectrum were left angered by the outcome of the vote, with Greens/European Free Alliance group shadow rapporteur Yannick Jadot accusing Schulz of having "twisted the meaning of parliament's rules of procedure to fit his political goals", after he switched the voting order so that his amendment - on ISDS - would be submitted to a ballot before that of the Greens.
But Jadot, a staunch TTIP opponent, added "two years ago no one could have predicted the level of mistrust MEPs are now showing towards the TTIP. Public opinion and citizen activism have played a big part here and have altered the balance of power within parliament."
"While negotiations have not even reached the halfway marker yet, this hollow victory of the pro-TTIP camp means the story does not end here and the Greens will continue to oppose the TTIP."
Helmut Scholz, shadow rapporteur for parliament's Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left, also vowed to continue fighting TTIP, saying, "the impressive public debate and resistance, including the signatures of more than two million citizens against TTIP and ISDS, have successfully changed the wording of the resolution compared to the last term."
"Significant demands to defend employment, public services, the capacities of SMEs and the audio-visual sectors could have been included. But the fight is not over. This was a resolution on the conduct of the negotiations and not on the result."
He also promised to, "stand firm against the regulatory cooperation agenda. We will not be appeased by the proposals to replace the current bad ISDS mechanisms with a 'better' ISDS. The very principle of ISDS must be given up, as it aims at giving corporations more rights than citizens."
The next round of TTIP negotiations takes place next week in Brussels.
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