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US rejects Malmstrom’s proposals to amend ISDS in TTIP

US Undersecretary for International Trade Stefan SeligThe European Commission, the executive of the European Union, has been trying to rescue the United States-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) from its critics by suggesting the controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision in the deal could be amended in various ways.

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom has suggested ISDS could move in the direction of setting up a permanent international investment court given the criticisms that have been levelled against arbitration panels.

But Agence France Presse reports, “A senior US official rejected Monday 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 Monday 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.”

This position could further compound the difficulties being encountered by TTIP and the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Germany, France, Austria, Hungary and other countries have all expressed concern about ISDS provision in CETA. But the Harper government – not unlike the Obama administration – refuses to allow amendments to the provision (even if that’s apparently needed to save the deal).

This appears to be causing some consternation even in right-wing circles.

Interestingly, last year the libertarian think tank Cato Institute called for the investor-state provision to be “purged” from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Dan Ikenson wrote, “The inclusion of ISDS in trade agreements subverts prospects for trade liberalization. US multinationals want access to ISDS, but they don’t need it. If the trade agenda is the proverbial airplane that is down an engine and losing altitude, throwing ISDS out of the cargo hold to lighten the load is the best way to reduce the chance of a crash.”

The Council of Canadians has called for the ISDS to be rejected and removed – not amended – from CETA.

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Photo: US Undersecretary for International Trade Stefan Selig.