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European coalition pushes for a just investment policy

The Seattle To Brussels network is asking Europeans to endorse a call for a just EU investment policy (pasted below). The timing of the statement is explained in the preamble but it’s important that the Canada-EU free trade negotiations are a catalyst. Canada is seeking an investor-to-state dispute system in CETA, much like the one in NAFTA, which would grant firms the right to sue governments in the event a policy or regulation impacts negatively on corporate profits.

In December, the Council of Canadians joined the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canadian Labour Congress and National Union of Public and General Employees in writing a letter to all members of the European Parliament, urging them to reject such investment protections in CETA.

“Fifteen years of experience has clearly shown that the sweeping powers and protections afforded to investors by NAFTA Chapter 11 have repeatedly been invoked in order to frustrate the legitimate exercise of democratic governmental authority,” says the letter. “In too many cases, those efforts have succeeded. It would be highly undesirable if this deeply flawed approach were to be entrenched and expanded in the CETA.

“We strongly urge you and your colleagues in the European Parliament to do all that you can to prevent the EU and EC negotiators from taking this reckless and irresponsible step.”

Already over 100 European groups have signed the S2B statement urging essentially the same thing of EU decisionmakers. And here it is…

Just EU Investment Policy now!

European civil society calls for a European international investment policy which promotes sustainable development and decent work

The Lisbon Treaty, in force since 1 December 2009, has moved the competence for foreign investment from the 27 European member states to the European Union level. The European Commission, Council and Parliament are at present discussing the content and direction of future EU investment policy. This is a crucial moment since the EU is currently negotiating Free Trade and Investment agreements with India, Malaysia, Canada, Mercosur and other nations and it is preparing new investment agreements with countries such as China and Russia.

International Investment Agreements give Multinational Corporations the right to sue sovereign states before international arbitration tribunals. Investors and law firms are increasingly making use of this possibility and do not hesitate to challenge governments’ social, environmental and economic regulations if these seem to reduce the profitability of their investments. A steep increase of investor-to-state arbitration cases against Europe is likely if EU policy makers continue to give international investors these privileged legal rights.

International investment agreements pose a threat to democratic governance and the public interest. The undersigned organisations call upon the European institutions and the governments of EU member states to develop a balanced investment policy that holds international investors accountable and protects the right to regulate in favour of public interest, decent work, human rights and environmental sustainability.

The future European investment regime needs to:

• incorporate investor obligations into investment agreements in particular in areas of human rights, environmental protection, decent work and corporate accountability

• contain more precise and restrictive language regarding investors’ rights

abolish the one-sided and secretive investor-to-state dispute settlement mechanism

• ensure that government measures which are designed and applied to protect or enhance public policy objectives cannot be challenged as “indirect expropriation” of investments

• include a substantive social and environmental dimension

EU member states’ negotiations of Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) should be put on hold. Existing BITs should be thoroughly assessed and replaced to comply with the principles of sustainable development, decent work and social equity.