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Rapporteur Bernd Lange: 'we have given clear guidance for the Commission on what kind of deal we want. And if, at the end of the day, the agreement is bad, we will reject it. If it's good, we will vote in favour.' Photo: European Parliament.
Rapporteur Bernd Lange: 'we have given clear guidance for the Commission on what kind of deal we want. And if, at the end of the day, the agreement is bad, we will reject it. If it's good, we will vote in favour.' Photo: European Parliament.
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European Parliament TTIP vote ignores citizen concerns

The Ecologist

8th July 2015

MEPs backed the TTIP EU-USA trade and investment deal by almost 2:1 today, ignoring civil society fears. New texts on key issues like ISDS appeared to address public concerns, but campaigners insist that 'the most dangerous proposals' remain.

Regulatory cooperation will shift power away from elected national and EU decision makers towards a transatlantic body of unaccountable bureaucrats, with the power to scrutinise any new piece of legislation at EU or member state level.

The European Parliament today expressed its support for the TTIP trade negotiations between the European Union and the United States by 436 votes to 241, with 32 abstentions.

The resolution adopted today is the Parliament's unique opportunity to give its opinion on the ongoing trade talks before a final definitive vote once negotiations are complete.

The result of the vote is "a setback for citizens, the environment, and democracy", according to Natacha Cingotti, Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE) trade campaigner.

"The people of Europe are rightly concerned about the threat TTIP poses to our environment, food, health and social protections - they expected the European Parliament to take a strong stance but MEPs have sided with big business and put democracy at risk by supporting these talks.

"The Parliament has backed dangerous propositions within TTIP such as special privileges for foreign investors and plans to permanently align existing and future rules between Europe and the US which would lead to lower environmental, food and safety standards.

"Ignoring the massive public mobilisation against this dangerous Trojan Horse treaty will only result in strengthening opposition to it."

ISDS - citizens' concerns dismissed

Over the last weeks, in-fighting within the Parliament over controversial aspects of the resolution has echoed growing public concern about the transatlantic talks. Yet, says Cingotti, the final text agreed today "fails to acknowledge these concerns or to clearly call for the exclusion of the most dangerous proposals within the talks."

On the 'investor-state dispute settlement' (ISDS) mechanism, a last-minute compromise amendment brokered by President Schulz was adopted: "To ensure that foreign investors are treated in a non-discriminatory fashion while benefitting from no greater rights than domestic investors".

According to the text, the ISDS-system should be replaced with "a new system for resolving disputes between investors and states which is subject to democratic principles and scrutiny where potential cases are treated in a transparent manner by publicly appointed, independent professional judges in public hearings and which includes an appellate mechanism ... and where private interests cannot undermine public policy objectives."

But Nick Dearden, chief executive of Global Justice now, says these assurances are a smokescreen: "EU parliamentary leaders will try to spin this report as real departure on ISDS - but it's nothing of the sort. If enacted, this would still hand massive powers to tens of thousands of US corporations to sue our government.

"The fact that pro-TTIP politicians like Martin Schulz are prepared to use such dirty political tricks to railroad this toxic trade deal through means that the enormous coalition that has formed across Europe in opposition to TTIP is going to have to up its game, and that's what's going to happen."

The 'ISDS lite' proposal was opposed by the  network of 480 civil society groups across Europe fighting against TTIP, who had argued that the proposal didn't address the fundamental problems of ISDS.

Regulatory cooperation? Or legislative handcuffs?

The Commission's plan for 'regulatory cooperation' under TTIP, was also accepted by MEPs despite public criticism and concern about its dangers. But according to FOEE,

"EU documents have revealed that regulatory cooperation will shift power away from elected national and EU decision makers towards a transatlantic body of unaccountable bureaucrats, with the power to scrutinise any new piece of legislation at EU or member state level.

"This would affect the ability of elected decision makers to regulate in the public interest, and unjustifiably increase the administrative burden of law-making."

MEPs advocated cutting trade red tape through "mutual recognition of equivalent standards", but nonetheless stress that there can be no agreement in areas where the US standards are "very different", e.g. for authorising chemicals, GMOs, use of hormones in the bovine sector, cloning or endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

The Parliament's rapporteur Bernd Lange insisted that if TTIP "is to work for the benefit of the people, then it cannot be left in the hands of the negotiators alone. That is why we have drafted this resolution and spelt out the principles for the kind of trade agreement we want the Commission to conclude ...

"We have given clear guidance for the Commission on what kind of deal we want. And if, at the end of the day, the agreement is bad, we will reject it. If it's good, we will vote in favour."

The next round of negotiations between EU and US negotiating teams will take place next week in Brussels (13th - 17th July) against a background of growing resistance across Europe.

 


 

Sign: A self-organised European Citizens' Initiative calling on EU decision makers to stop the TTIP negotiations has already collected more than two million signatures.

 

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