Wednesday

16th Jan 2019

Investor court issue still bedevils TTIP vote

  • Wall Street: The EU and US are negotiating the world's largest free trade agrement (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

MEPs in Strasbourg next week are set to vote on how the free-trade deal, TTIP, with the Americans should be negotiated.

It will be their second attempt after president Martin Schulz, at the last plenary session, called off the vote following splits among and between party groups.

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A special court, known as the investor-state dispute system (ISDS), designed to allow big companies to sue countries, had roused sharp divisions.

Those issues have now been, ostensibly, resolved, with MEPs steering the report through the international trade committee managing to reach new compromise.

The latest text, hammered out with Schulz’s input, asks the commissioner negotiators “to replace the ISDS-system with a new system” in which “private interests cannot undermine public policy objectives.”

The Socialists, who are piloting the file, say it means ISDS is effectively dead.

“That means no ISDS, which we are very happy about,” an S&D spokesperson told reporters in Brussels on Friday (3 July).

She said the new system would be “public and transparent” and ensure private interests don’t “undermine public policy”.

One parliament source told this website some socialists still have an issue with the ISDS compromise and will likely vote against it, however.

Meanwhile, the centre-right EPP have a different narrative.

They back the compromise because it still allows a specialised court where big firms can take legal action against governments outside the normal national judicial system.

A spokesperson from the centre-right group told this website the compromise text simple means the Socialists can "sell to the people” that ISDS no longer exists.

“It is a problem of branding. Instead of ISDS you can call it whatever, but there will be a system”, he said.

A Guardian newspaper report into ISDS rulings in other areas, earlier this year, revealed sums awarded to companies are sometimes so large that a threat of lawsuit is now being used “to exert pressure on governments not to challenge investors’ actions.”

Negotiations between the EU and US started in 2013.

The deal, once reached, will need the backing of the European Parliament and member states to come into force.

The far-left GUE and the Greens, for their part, oppose ISDS and anything that resembles it.

“We sill stand firm against ISDS and any secret regulatory cooperation council preventing the future advancement of our societies,” said Helmut Scholz, a German MEP from the GUE group.

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