21st Mar 2018

MEPs back US free trade after Socialist U-turn

MEPs gave their thumbs up to EU-US trade talks and backed away from a confrontation with the European Commission over investor protection rights in a surprise vote on Thursday (28 May).

Deputies on the trade committee voted by 28 to 13 to support a non-legislative report by Bernd Lange, the German centre-left MEP committee chair, while the centre-left Socialist group had a change of heart on the controversial issue of investor/state dispute settlement (ISDS).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The compromise resolution backed by the European Parliament’s main groups, including the centre-right EPP and the Socialists, calls for a transparent legal mechanism for disputes, where cases are heard by "publicly appointed, independent" judges, with the opportunity for decisions to be appealed.

It also suggests that a public international investment court would be the "most appropriate" means to handle investment disputes in the medium term.

Earlier this month, trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem unveiled plans to set up a global court to decide on disputes between investors and governments in a bid to defuse the controversy, although US officials have indicated that they do not support the re-opening of the ISDS regime.

Backing the compromise following days of back-room wrangling with the EPP marks a significant U-turn by the Socialists.

Lange’s draft report had originally called for ISDS to simply be excluded from the remit of negotiations.

At a press conference following the committee vote, Lange described the assembly’s position as “crystal clear”.

“The current model for ISDS is no longer being tolerated by Parliament,” he said, adding that any new legal instrument “would have to be an independent court arbitration … moving away from private courts”.

The vote was hailed as a "victory for free trade" by Christofer Fjellner, the EPP's spokesman on the committee.

But German Green deputy Ska Keller said: “There is no clear message now whether this report will exclude an ISDS or a reformed ISDS”.

Discussions on ISDS have been frozen since March 2014, when the commission opened a consultation to gauge public opinion on the issue.

Ninety seven percent of the submissions to the EU executive, most of them coming from campaign groups, opposed the inclusion of the investment regime.

Critics of ISDS warn that it allows firms to take governments to court if they discriminate against them or introduce new laws which threaten their investments, saying it could have grave implications for consumer protection, environmental and health legislation.

“ISDS needs reform but the reality is that we need to leave every option on the table … and not just leave red lines,” said British Conservative Party deputy Emma McClarkin.

“We desperately need investment in the EU,” she noted, adding that the vote by MEPs “injected a dose of caffeine into TTIP negotiations.”

The business lobby group BusinessEurope also welcomed the report.

“Today’s vote shows we have come a long way and positive dynamics are back,” said its chief, Markus Beyrer.

Others were less happy.

“There wasn’t enough courage to reject ISDS,” said German left-wing MEP Werner Schulz, who accused deputies of having ignored concerns on a raft of issues. The Greens and left-wing Gue group both voted against the resolution.

“Deplorably, the European Parliament took a very ambiguous stance on the infamous Investor/State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system,” said Monique Goyens, secretary general of consumer association BEUC.

“We have yet to see any facts justifying its inclusion in an EU/US trade deal,” she added.

Trade officials have now completed nine rounds of negotiations since summer 2013 and are hoping to keep as close as possible to their self-imposed deadline of December 2015 to agree a draft text.

The timing is important in a bid to avoid TTIP getting caught up in the race to replace Barack Obama in the White House, which will begin in earnest in autumn.

The next round of talks will take place in July.

Although the EU parliament, which will adopt its final position in Strasbourg on June 10th, cannot change the commission’s negotiating mandate, it has the power to veto a draft agreement.

EU-US trade talks to drift into 2016

Negotiations on a landmark EU-US free trade deal will drag into 2016 - a blow to those hoping for a swift agreement under Barack Obama’s presidency.

EU unveils plans for global investor court

The EU has unveiled plans to set up a global court to decide on investor disputes with governments in a bid to defuse one of the main controversies in EU-US trade talks.


EU praises Turkey on migrant deal despite Greek misery

The EU-Turkey deal was agreed two years ago in Brussels. Focus has largely been on reducing migrant flows across the Mediterranean and helping Syrian refugees in Turkey, while the plight of those on the Greek islands are ignored.

Whistleblower fears for life as US arrest Malta bank chair

US authorities have arrested the chair of the Maltese-registered Pilatus Bank for tax evasion. The bank facilitated political corruption in Malta but its whistleblower is now facing jail in Malta and fears for her life.

Whistleblower fears for life as US arrest Malta bank chair

US authorities have arrested the chair of the Maltese-registered Pilatus Bank for tax evasion. The bank facilitated political corruption in Malta but its whistleblower is now facing jail in Malta and fears for her life.

News in Brief

  1. Separatist activist renounces Catalonia leadership candidacy
  2. EU puts conditions on Bayer-Monsanto merger
  3. Hard Brexit would hit poorer Irish households hardest
  4. Finland hosts secretive North Korean talks
  5. EU to unveil 3% tax on digital giants
  6. German elected S&D leader in European Parliament
  7. Germany: nearly €350m child benefit goes abroad
  8. Norway's far-right doubles support as minister resigns

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverStart a Career in EU Media. Apply Now to Become Our Next Sales Associate
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Latest News

  1. EU praises Turkey on migrant deal despite Greek misery
  2. Judicial reforms 'restore balance', Poland tells EU
  3. Whistleblower fears for life as US arrest Malta bank chair
  4. Behind the scenes at Monday's EU talks on Russia
  5. US yet to push on Nord Stream 2 sanctions
  6. EU mulls coercion to get refugee kids' fingerprints
  7. Five east European states prevent new CAP consensus
  8. EU to probe UK 'election-rigging' firm

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  2. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  3. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework
  4. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  5. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  7. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  8. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  9. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections