TTIP: MEPs accused of standing up for businesses instead of citizens

Parliament's international trade committee has passed a resolution on the controversial TTIP negotiations, angering MEPs to the left.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

29 May 2015

Parliament's international trade committee has approved recommendations to the commission on the ongoing transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) negotiations, with 29 votes in favour, 10 against and two abstentions.

Despite nearly 900 amendments and 13 committee opinions having been taken into account ahead of the vote, many reactions have revolved around one topic - investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS).

ISDS has been hugely controversial since the start of the TTIP negotiations, amid fears that such a system would give companies too much power over national governments.


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Rapporteur Bernd Lange, chair of the international committee, stressed that "one thing is clear – the current model of ISDS, i.e. private arbitration, is no longer being tolerated by parliament".

He explained, "if an instrument is to be used, it would have to be an independent court of arbitration with independent judges and an appeal mechanism, with a clearly defined legal basis, moving away from private courts or tribunals of arbitration".

The Socialist MEP added, "the compromise sets out to mediate - we trust the legal mechanisms in Europe and the USA; if there are outstanding problems they should not go to private bodies but permanent courts".

Lange was also well aware that another contentious aspect of the TTIP talks is "the issue of transparency and dialogue with civil society - we have stressed the need for that and we want the commission to engage in more activities and action than it has done so far".

Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl, EPP group shadow rapporteur, was of the same opinion, saying, "up to now there has been a lack of transparency, but now we are moving towards more transparency".

She complained that, "at present we do not know what is being covered by the negotiations".

ECR shadow rapporteur Emma McClarkin said the agreement reached "sets out more positive priorities for how we are moving forward in this negotiation", highlighting, "we have a lot that we wish to achieve - public procurement, more access to markets, reducing non-tariff barriers".

In terms of ISDS, "it is true that [it] needs reform - nobody disputes that - but we have to leave every option on the table".

ALDE shadow rapporteur Marietje Schaake insisted that, "a good TTIP should ensure that globally, we avoid a race to the bottom and we strengthen rules-based trade".

She also called for "modern investment protection".

The Dutch MEP was pleased that parliament's "push for transparency has rendered results, and we would like to see more of this in order to have a well-informed debate".

Unfortunately, parliamentary groups to the left were extremely dissatisfied with the outcome of the vote.

GUE/NGL shadow rapporteur Helmut Scholz lamented that "there wasn't enough courage to take a major step and say we need to exclude ISDS now and in the future - this is something we don't need in the 21st century, it belongs to the past".

He added, "we have our own legal systems, and if there are disputes we can turn to them in a transparent and democratic way which can be understood by all - that is the way to solve disputes, this needs to be included in the EU's negotiating position, and that wasn't done today".

Yannick Jadot, representing parliament's Greens/EFA group, said, "let's not beat around the bush here - the vote constitutes a forceful victory for the EPP, ECR and ALDE groups".

He accused the international trade committee of "aligning with [European trade commissioner] Cecilia Malmström's proposals - she must be delighted."

"At the end of the day, the smokescreen she created for ISDS seems to have achieved the results she was looking for, since groups that were opposed to it have now fallen in line with a resolution which has been determined by the EPP, ECR and ALDE groups".

He believed that "ISDS is a way of privatising justice to the detriment of our citizens".

EFDD shadow rapporteur Tiziana Beghin was equally critical, accusing parliament of having stood up "not in the defence of the citizens who elected us, but businesses".

MEPs are now set to vote on the report in plenary on 10 June.

 

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