from the well,-at-the-moment dept
As we've noted, if there's one aspect of TAFTA/TTIP that practically everyone agrees is a bad idea, it's corporate sovereignty. Even against that background, it's still slightly surprising to read in the well-regarded German newspaper Die Zeit that the German government too wants it out of TTIP (via @FSchweitzer, original in German):
The German federal government rejects special rights for corporations in the free trade agreement between the EU and the USA. "The federal government is doing all it can to ensure that it doesn't come to this," said the Secretary of State in the Federal Ministry of Economics, Brigitte Zypries, on Wednesday during question time in parliament. "We are currently in the consultation process and are committed to ensuring that the arbitration tribunals are not included in the agreement," said Ms Zypries.
The Secretary of State then went on to make a point many others have emphasized:
"The German federal government's view is that the U.S. offers investors from the EU sufficient legal protection in its national courts," said the SPD politician Zypries. Equally, U.S. investors in Germany have sufficient legal protection through German courts. "From the beginning, the federal government has examined critically whether such a provision should be included in the negotiations for a free trade agreement," Zypries said.
Corporate sovereignty measures were added to earlier bilateral agreements when the legal systems of the country receiving foreign investment raised issues about their independence or where there was a fear that local governments might expropriate property with impunity. Neither can seriously be considered a risk in the case of the EU and US, and so investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) is redundant, as the German government recognizes here.
If this really is Germany's view, it will have major consequences for the negotiations, since the European Commission won't be able to get TAFTA/TTIP accepted by the EU without Germany's full support. There remains some room for doubt, though, as the German Secretary of State also said:
arbitration tribunals of this kind should only be brought in as a last resort after exhausting all legal remedies brought in national courts.
If ISDS is excluded from TTIP, then that comment makes no sense, since there won't be the option to turn to supra-national tribunals after exhausting the legal process in national courts. So maybe Germany expects to be "persuaded" by concessions from the European Commission to change its mind at some point. But even if the German government is not totally abandoning the idea of corporate sovereignty, the fact that a senior politician is prepared to go on the record with the comments quoted above is significant. Germany's leaders obviously feel the need to distance themselves from ISDS, which is fast turning into a serious political liability.