European Union halts TTIP investor-state talks with the United States

The BBC reports, "The European Commission has suspended talks on part of a far-reaching European Union-United States free trade deal (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) amid concern that hard-won social protections in Europe might be undermined. The trade negotiations began last year but now the Commission has launched a three-month public consultation on the proposed investment rules (the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism) for firms."

Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew comments, "The Council of Canadians welcomes a decision of the European Commission to hold public consultations on a controversial investor rights chapter in the U.S.-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The Council asks that those hearings be expanded to consider identical investment protections in the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. The Council is also calling on the Harper government to hold similar consultations in light of the atrociously high number of investment lawsuits brought against Canada."

The BBC article notes, "Questions have also been raised about the dispute settlement mechanism in an EU-Canada free trade deal, which has been negotiated but not yet ratified. UK Labour MEP David Martin voiced concern that such deals might make privatisations irreversible. He gave as an example the UK government selling off part of the National Health Service to a Canadian firm - and a future UK government finding it legally impossible to renationalise that service."

On January 14, the Independent reported, "An Early Day Motion in (the British) Parliament, signed by MPs from all parties, calls for the (EU-US) trade talks to be frozen until the issue is resolved." In that article, Tory MP Zac Goldsmith says, "It is hard to see how this won’t seriously jeopardise the sovereignty of the UK Government and its legal system. Disputes between companies and legislators should always be dealt with by British courts." Labour MP John Healey says, "It is not clear ISDSs are justified at all when the agreement will be struck between countries with some of the most advanced and stable legal systems in the world." And Green Party MP Caroline Lucas says, "(The move would) overturn decades of laws and regulations formed through democratic processes on both sides of the Atlantic."

The BBC report continues, "Announcing the public consultation, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said 'governments must always be free to regulate so they can protect people and the environment'. 'But they must also find the right balance and treat investors fairly, so they can attract investment... Some existing arrangements have caused problems in practice, allowing companies to exploit loopholes where the legal text has been vague.' He said Europeans had raised 'genuine concerns about this part of the EU-US deal' and 'now I want them to have their say'."

"Last week 10 European NGOs issued a joint statement raising doubts about the TTIP's mechanism for legal disputes... The statement said there was a risk the mechanism could 'open the gates for multinationals and investors to sue EU member states if new environmental or health legislation is introduced that adversely affects their business prospects'."

A few examples that the Council of Canadians have highlighted are here.

"The trade deal cannot become law unless the parliament approves it."

Further reading
Canada should mirror EU consultations on investor "rights" chapter in transatlantic trade deals
All-party motion in UK expresses concern about investor-state provisions
More than 100 organizations sign transatlantic statement opposing dangerous investor "rights" chapter in CETA
Europeans face investor-state challenges with CETA