Top EU Politicians Call For TAFTA/TTIP's Corporate Sovereignty Provisions To Be Removed

from the going,-going,-gone dept

Back in March, we reported on the growing rejection of corporate sovereignty in TAFTA/TTIP, even by the German government. Since then, criticism of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which puts corporations above nations, has become even louder and more widespread. Some significant manifestations of that took place during a plenary session of the newly-elected European Parliament, where Karel De Gucht, the commissioner leading the negotiations for the EU, made a brief statement on TAFTA/TTIP. Here’s how one member of the European Parliament (MEP) responded, as reported by The Parliament magazine:

During Tuesday’s plenary session GUE/NGL deputy Helmut Scholz addressed De Gucht, saying, “You carried out a public consultation on the inclusion of an investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause which received over 115,000 responses.

“Citizens don’t want ISDS; neither in TTIP nor in the agreement with Canada,” the German deputy argued.

Many of those 115,000 responses were made using Web sites that offered a (negative) template for responding. That means the European Commission will probably try to dismiss them as bulk submissions. But others will be much harder to ignore — like this rigorous response made by more than a hundred prominent scholars from all over Europe and across the globe.

Also speaking at the plenary session was the Scottish MEP David Martin, who issued the following warning:

The Socialists were proud to be at the birth of TTIP, and we do not want to be its assassins, and I want to tell the Commission clearly now, though, that if we have to be, we will be. And that’s why we want the Commission to listen carefully to our concerns.

Martin’s words are doubly significant. First, because TTIP will not pass without the support of the Socialists, so the threat to kill the agreement is not an idle one. And secondly, because Martin played a key role in stopping ACTA two years ago, when he was the rapporteur — the European Parliament’s expert — for the brief, and advised his fellow MEPs to vote against the agreement. The video of Martin’s speech linked to above begins by showing a number of MEPs holding up placards against TTIP, and that’s not the only demonstration that took place recently. A small group of protesters disrupted the latest stakeholder meeting in Brussels, before being bundled fairly roughly from the room:

Another senior socialist politician with serious concerns about TTIP, and about corporate sovereignty in particular, is the MEP who chairs the influential committee on international trade, the principal one for TAFTA/TTIP:

German Socialist Bernd Lange, who said procedural rules would stop [right-wing MEP] Le Pen grandstanding or using sessions for publicity, also warned that an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism should be dropped from TTIP. If it wasn’t, he said, the Parliament?s next resolution on TTIP could be negative.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, the most powerful individual in the EU, Jean-Claude Juncker, has also come out against ISDS in his “Political Guidelines for the next European Commission” (pdf), published earlier this week:

As Commission President, I will also be very clear that I will not sacrifice Europe’s safety, health, social and data protection standards or our cultural diversity on the altar of free trade. Notably, the safety of the food we eat and the protection of Europeans’ personal data will be non-negotiable for me as Commission President. Nor will I accept that the jurisdiction of courts in the EU Member States is limited by special regimes for investor disputes. The rule of law and the principle of equality before the law must also apply in this context.

Given this resistance to corporate sovereignty at the highest levels of the European Commission and European Parliament, it’s hard to see how De Gucht can continue to push for it in his negotiations with the US. After all, once TAFTA/TTIP is agreed, the European Parliament will have a yes/no vote, and will be unable to modify it. That means the only way to block ISDS is to reject the whole deal — just as it happened with ACTA for the same reason.

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Comments on “Top EU Politicians Call For TAFTA/TTIP's Corporate Sovereignty Provisions To Be Removed”

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31 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Take the risk or play it safe...

Now they have to decide which way they want to go from here, do they continue to insist on including corporate sovereignty clauses, in the hopes that the politicians will, in the end, be too tempted by the various ‘good’ parts of the agreements, and be willing to ignore the rotten and corrupt parts, giving them the go-ahead regardless of current threats, or play it safe, and pull those clauses, hoping that’s enough to salvage things and get the politicians to give them the green-light.

Best-case scenario as I see it, is if they refuse to remove the corporate sovereignty clauses, and the politicians stay true to their words, killing the ‘agreements’ off as a result. No ‘trade agreement’, kept secret from the public, but made available for ‘commentary’ and ‘suggestions’ from the very industries who would be most affected by it, deserves to survive, and hopefully these ones won’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Prediction

That something else we’ve seen time and again. We see it here. That is to say to try and include it next time around in 3 or 4 years with yet another secret trade agreement without public input.

It’s so rotten that they know the public will not accept it which is why it is secret in the first place.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Shocking news

In recent years they have not been about free trade at all. If they were then clearly things like region encoding of DVDs, region restricted access to websites stc etc would be on the agenda (for abolition). No – these deals are about entrenching the positions of powerful companies in a kind of diplomatic game where the objective is to get more value in the concessions made by the other side than you give away.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Shocking news

Green party and leftists are known for being against it, almost period. Socialists usually end up voting for trade agreements.

ACTA was an unusual situation, where De Gucht had already pissed them off by the way he treated the negotiations, withheld documents and toyed with the procedures to fast track it and make it a previously undefined procedure. It also caught public resistance which held them in that position.

Scholz is unimportant here, while Lange and to some degree Juncker is interesting.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Shocking news

Except when they were for it. Strongly. Until the corporate-law-shall-rule-the world interests wanted to push the sovereignty provisions.

Funny how I usually hear conservatives and the rest of the right complaining about free trade agreements just as much as any labor-left person. The only group consistently in their favor are the corporatists.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Shocking news

Actually, all those folks are against their country being sued by US and other foreign corporations for disallowing those corporations to profit in any way they see fit inside their country, and/or letting those corporations force the rewrite of that country’s laws to allow those corporations to profit in a fashion that would otherwise be illegal in that country.

But you already knew that didn’t you. 🙂

JH says:

"Speed dating with Lobbyists"

The Suddeutsche Zeitung ran a nice, lightly ironical colour piece on the “Stakeholder Meeting” that got interrupted,

Speed-Dating mit Lobbyisten (Google translation)

Shame that there’s been essentially no coverage at all in the mainstream English-language press (so far as I can see). The treaty does seem to be much more on the radar in Germany, particularly ISDS and “ChlorhĂĽhnchen”.

But with luck the negotiators have been getting the message this week that both MEPs and Member State reps are seriously unhappy about the extraordinary limits being placed on their access to the texts. I suspect that overall that that is what is doing the most damage to TTIP’s eventual prospects at the moment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I am surprised the medium-sized businesses are the ones protesting the loudest since the most disadvantaged would be the small businesses. But as soon as you change the rules for hygiene, environmental standards and IP, you are basically incuring a relatively worse extra cost to SMEs than larger companies if it is a strenghtening of the standards and giving the larger a bigger competitive edge if weakening.

Call me Al says:

Point worth noting on the Commission

As noted in the article Juncker is working to introduce his new Commission and so Karel De Gucht will soon no longer be the European Commissioner for Trade and so should no longer have the job of negotiating the treaty.

It will be interesting to see what his replacement has to say.

JH says:

Re: Point worth noting on the Commission

Piece in today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine suggests that Germany wants the role for GĂĽnther Oettinger, who is from the CDU party of Angela Merkel, and has been re-nominated to the Commission, having served currently as Energy Commissioner.

http://www.faz.net/aktuell/wirtschaft/wirtschaftspolitik/bruessel-geschacher-um-kuenftige-eu-kommissare-13051331-p2.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2

Could well be likely: Germany is one of the places where there has been most resistance to TTIP, especially ISDS and Chlorine-chicken. And Germany very often gets what it wants from the EU.

British candidate, Lord Hill (“Lord Who?”) would likely be kiss-of-death for TTIP — supporters wouldn’t want to see it even more identified as a British / “Anglo Saxon” / neo-liberal project.

Oettinger has had a lacklustre run as Energy Commissioner. Work from the directorate has either failed, stalled or been gutted by Member States. Most recently he failed to protect the EU Fuel Quality Directive against pressure from Canada for environmental leniency over oil from tar sands.

JH says:

Re: Re: Point worth noting on the Commission

WirtschaftWoche is also talking up Oettinger’s chances:

http://www.wiwo.de/politik/europa/eu-kommission-merkel-will-oettinger-als-handelskommissar/10219282.html

Suggests Germany is in with a good chance, because it has not gone for any of the EU’s other “top jobs” (Commission president / Council president / High rep for Foreign Affairs).

WirtschaftsBlatt, from Austria, says Germany feels it deserves one of the key economic portfolios. Too many likely conflicts of interest mean that Competition is probably out of the question; and a German at Economic and Monetary Affairs is likely to be unacceptable to Southern Europe.

http://wirtschaftsblatt.at/home/nachrichten/europa/3841174/Deutschland-will-den-Handelskommissar-und-Gunther-Oettinger-soll

Other countries that have also expressed an interest in the Trade portfolio include Finland, Latvia and Slovakia, according to WirtschaftWoche.

De Gucht, the existing Commissioner (from Belgium), is actively trying to be re-nominated. He is said to have eyes on the Foreign Affairs job; but WiWo says this is unlikely, given that the Commission presidency has already gone to a Benelux country. Second-term commissioners do not usually stay in the same job, but it is not impossible. It is also complicated because the composition of the next Belgian government – which parties will be in the governing coalition, and which will be out – has not yet been finalised following the recent elections. One other front-runner for the next Belgian commissioner is Marianne Thyssen, a long-serving and well-respected Belgian Christian Democrat MEP.

A further complication (according to WiWo) is that there is a strong sense that the new Commission ought to have a reasonable balance between male and female Commissioners. However, so far with half the country nominations declared, there hasn’t been a single woman. It is not impossible that the European Parliament may vote the entire slate down, which is its right.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You give them more credit than they’re due. They will never stop trying to slip little ‘additions’ into every ‘trade’ agreement and/or completely unrelated bill, and if they get caught and slapped down for it today, they’ll just wait a bit and try again later, because there’s absolutely no punishment when they do get caught.

Seegras (profile) says:

Re: Smoke and Mirrors

Just read the agenda here:

http://www.parlament.gv.at/PAKT/EU/XXV/EU/02/93/EU_29311/imfname_10474926.pdf

“Air Traffic Management”, “ENFOPOL”, “anti-personnel-mines”…
And that’s not new. The whole ENFOPOL-shenanigan was basically ratified by the commission for Agriculture and Fisheries. I think something on copyright as well.

If you think you’ve got something that you can’t get through the appropriate commission, try the one for Agriculture and Fisheries.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Simple Solution

This is actually easy, being the EU and all. Just file a right to be forgotten claim for the corporate sovereignty portion, then, since it no longer exists there will be no issue with voting that portion in. What could the negotiators do then, since nothing is left to vote on?

Hell, for that matter, maybe they should just file for the right for TAFTA/TTIP to be forgotten in their entirety, then they could get back to fixing copyright with more egregious ‘get the little guy ’cause Hollywood needs more money’ legislation.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘the protection of Europeans’ personal data will be non-negotiable for me as Commission President.’

given what has happened in the UK with it’s latest law on data retention being not just carried on by ISPs, under governmental instructions, but been made worse, no wonder Cameron wanted to stop Juncker from being European Commision President! i guess he’s hoping the public will vote to leave the EU so he can get even further into bed with the USA! i sure hope the UK gets into deep shit for what it has done to it’s citizens, especially with the UN coming down on the side of stopping data retention because of Human Rights issues!

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