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Crucial vote on ISDS in European Parliament coming within weeks

The Council of Canadians and allies have lobbied at the European Parliament against ISDS and CETA, and will be there again.

The Council of Canadians and allies have lobbied at the European Parliament against ISDS and CETA, and will be there again.

The European Parliament’s trade committee has voted to back the United States-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The resolution endorsing the agreement now goes to the full European Parliament in Strasbourg for a plenary vote expected to take place June 8-10.

In a campaign blog last month, we noted that Doru Frantescu, the director of VoteWatch Europe, writes, “Before the actual ratification vote [on major treaties], the Parliament usually votes, once or more times, [on] a non-binding resolution stating its position and the ‘no go’ zones, as is the case of the resolution currently being worked on in the international trade committee (INTA). …Key provisions in the TTIP will be under heavy fire and their outcome is uncertain. Chief among these is the investor-to-state [ISDS] clause, a mechanism which allows investors to settle disputes with national governments in international courts, rather than national ones.”

This morning our ally War on Want reports, “MEPs also backed the European Commission’s controversial proposal for an ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ (ISDS) system, which grants privileged powers to foreign corporations. The text presented by committee chairperson Bernd Lange at the eleventh hour dropped a key phrase rejecting the use of ISDS, and supported instead the new proposals for ISDS in TTIP introduced by EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström earlier this month. Lange was publicly criticised by other MEPs for the procedure adopted in pushing through his support for ISDS.”

Notably, MEPs chose to back  Malmström’s ISDS ‘reforms’ even though the Americans have said they do not support them. Agence France Presse has reported, “A senior US official rejected [on May 11] an EU proposal to create an international investment court that was aimed at resolving one of the disputes holding up their free trade deal. …US Undersecretary for International Trade at the Commerce Department, Stefan Selig, noted that some so-called Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanisms already exist in international trade agreements and had not resulted in a loss of sovereignty for countries.”

Reaction to the vote has been swift.

War on Want executive director John Hilary says, “Millions of people across Europe have said no to TTIP, in the strongest trade campaign we have ever seen. Yet MEPs have turned their backs on their own constituents, choosing instead to side with the business lobbyists of Brussels. This is an outright betrayal of the European people, and we shall not forget it.”

Friends of the Earth Europe highlights, “More than 1.5 million people have signed a self-organised European Citizens’ Initiative calling on EU decision-makers to stop the TTIP negotiations and to not ratify the EU-Canada trade deal (CETA), and no less than 97% of the respondents to the European Commission’s own consultation on investor-state dispute settlement have rejected special rights for investors.”

And Transport & Environment trade officer Cécile Toubeau says, “We hope MEPs will mobilise to fix this resolution in plenary vote next month.”

The Council of Canadians has been following this debate closely. Last month, we encouraged our supporters though this action alert to tell members of the European Parliament’s trade committee that transnational corporations based in Canada would not hesitate to use the investor-state dispute settlement in CETA to challenge European measures that protect the environment, food safety and the general public interest.

A Reuters news article, posted just prior to the vote, quoted Lange saying, “The parliament will not agree to an old-fashioned ISDS, that’s for sure.” That “old-fashioned” ISDS provision is the one that currently exists in the Canada-EU ‘deal. As noted in the War on Want media release above, Lange supported the proposals to reform the ISDS provision in TTIP suggested by EU trade commissioner Malmström (to read criticisms of those proposals, click here). So far though, Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper has refused to re-open CETA negotiations to amend the ISDS provision in the deal.

Further reading
Key European Parliament vote on ‘free trade’ expected on June 9 (April 2015 blog)