Friday, July 10, 2015

Public Mandate Versus Corporate Interests

The European Parliament voted this week to move forward on the stalled Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations. The negotiations had been stalled over a number of disputes, in particular the trade tribunals created for Investor State Dispute Settlement.
Bloomberg reported:
“The European Parliament demanded limits on legal protection for foreign investors in any free-trade agreement with the U.S., highlighting the political sensitivity of an issue that could scuttle a trans-Atlantic deal.”

The Parliament attempted to bring the issue to a vote on June 10th but due to controversy and fear that the ISDS would be completely removed from TTIP, delayed and re-wrote the resolution on the issue. Guy Jones of Global Justice Now described “an array of underhand political tactics” and the process including “shocking examples of devious political manoeuvring, angry scenes on the floor of the chamber, and misleading claims by proponents of an old enemy dressed up in new clothes: ISDS-lite.”

The Parliament which has the power to approve or reject, but not to amend, any final agreement, voted 436 in favor and  241 against for a resolution which includes a non-binding set of recommendations to the European Commission. Opposition in the Parliament has come primarily from the Greens, the far-left and far-right groups, as well as several dozen MEPs in the centre-left group. Intellectual Property Watch reports:Some members of the conservative European People’s Party Group (EPP) and the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) joined the Green and Left Party groups in asking to exempt ISDS from the negotiations completely.” As in the United States it is the populists vs. the corporatists. 

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, suspended talks last year on ISDS with the U.S. because of widespread concerns in Europe about the tribunals. The commission completed a public consultation on the merits of negotiating an ISDS clause in TTIP in January. In the process 145,500 people (97 % of the total of 150 000) told the European Commission in its consultation on the issue that they wanted ISDS to be removed from TTIP. In addition 2.3 million people have given it their support to a European Citizens Initiative calling for an end to TTIP negotiations. Further, hundreds of municipalities have declared themselves ‘TTIP-free-zones’ in opposition to a negotiation in which they are not consulted and that will affect their ability to regulate at the local level if it comes to an agreement. 
Guy Jones reports that a populist revolt was ignored, much like we saw in the United States over Fast Track trade authority:
“Almost all the MEPs that voted in Parliament today have received many thousands of emails from their constituents wanting them to vote against TTIP because they’re concerned about the impact it will have on vital public services, on consumer rights, on regulations protecting workers and the environment. It shows who’s paying the piper in Strasbourg that MEPs can ignore such a strongly articulated public mandate and instead vote in favour of corporate interests.”

In addition, a senior US official has already rejected the idea of creating new investor courts so the European Parliament’s recommendation on ISDS may amount to little more than political window-dressing.
As in the United States there is broad opposition to corporate trade agreements and they have taken the same secrecy approach in order to minimize opposition: “TTIP is being negotiated in secret. Our elected representatives in the House of Commons are not allowed to see the draft negotiating texts. Our elected representatives in the European parliament had to hold a demonstration in the European Parliament before being granted permission to see these texts in January this year. Even now they can only see the texts in a locked room if they have removed any possible recording devices, including their mobile phones, and signed a 14 page agreement to keep the contents secret.”

from here

1 comment:

Janet Surman said...

For more comment on the TTIP and information about outside (corporate) influence see an article beginning:

The latest release of lobbying data on the European Commission’s Transparency Register has raised concerns that the fossil-fuelled Kochs are trying to influence the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership(TTIP) negotiations.

Digging through the data, DeSmog UK found that the European arm of Koch Industry’s legal, lobbying and public affairs branch – known as Koch Companies Public Sector LLC – has spent up to £0.5m lobbying EUpolicymakers on the environment, energy and free trade.

And according to the voluntary register, Koch Industries – the largest privately owned energy company in the United States, known for funding climate denial groups – has a particular interest in lobbying on the “EU’s free trade agreement negotiations.”
from here: