In Response To Growing Protests, EU Pulls Corporate Sovereignty Chapter From TAFTA/TTIP To Allow For Public Consultation
from the more-of-this,-please dept
Here on Techdirt, we've been writing about the dangers of corporate sovereignty for a while. In recent months, more and more people and organizations have pointed out that the plan to include an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in the TAFTA/TTIP agreement currently being negotiated is fraught with dangers -- and also completely unnecessary given the fair and efficient legal systems that exist on both sides of the Atlantic. It seems that this chorus of disapproval has finally been noticed, in Brussels at least:
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht today announced his decision to consult the public on the investment provisions of a future EU-US trade deal, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The decision follows unprecedented public interest in the talks. It also reflects the Commissioner's determination to secure the right balance between protecting European investment interests and upholding governments' right to regulate in the public interest. In early March, he will publish a proposed EU text for the investment part of the talks which will include sections on investment protection and on investor-to-state dispute settlement, or ISDS. This draft text will be accompanied by clear explanations for the non-expert. People across the EU will then have three months to comment.
That's a hugely significant admission that the European Commission's attempt simply to push ISDS through without explanation or consultation was a major tactical error. By failing to address the manifest problems with investor-state disputes, the European Commission allowed the overall sentiment towards TAFTA/TTIP to become increasingly negative. Clearly, what De Gucht hopes to achieve with this three-month pause is to convince people that ISDS is not a threat to national sovereignty, and thus to salvage the agreement as a whole.
He may have problems trying to do that. The European Commission press release quoted above includes a section with background information about corporate sovereignty. It's heavily based on an earlier Commission "fact sheet" entitled, "Investment Protection and Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement in EU agreements" (pdf). Elsewhere, I have explained why the arguments offered are almost entirely wrong or misleading. So it's not at all clear how the European Commission will manage to win people over to an idea that is entirely for the benefit of corporates, and offers nothing but disadvantages for the general public.
Still, De Gucht's move to open up at least this area of TAFTA/TTIP for public discussion is to be welcomed, even if it was made rather unwillingly. Now that the European Commission has finally admitted that it is indeed possible to release its negotiating text in order to allow a public debate, we must have similar transparency for the rest of the agreement.