What MEPs voted today on TTIP

Jude gives an update on today's TTIP vote in the Trade Committee of the European Parliament.

We just had an important vote on TTIP in the trade committee of the European Parliament. I am writing this post to explain what was voted on today, and how this fits in the overall TTIP negotiations.

 

Trade deals in the EU are negotiated by the European Commission, on the basis of a detailed mandate adopted by the Prime Ministers of all the 28 EU countries. The European Parliament is not part of the process to adopt the mandate, and we can't stop the negotiations either. However, the European Parliament recently gained the power to veto any trade deal. This is a blunt power, as MEPs can only say yes or no. This means we cannot amend any trade agreement.

 

TTIP is currently being negotiated. Talks started in 2013, and progress has been extremely slow. No one expects the negotiations to be concluded anytime soon. In fact, TTIP may very well not be finalised before the end of the current European Parliament in 2019.

 

Rather than sit and wait for the end of the negotiations, the Socialist group in the European Parliament and other progressive political groups have consistently pushed for the current European Parliament to adopt a resolution to set out in advance our conditions for supporting any deal with the US. This way, we can influence the negotiations: it would be very unwise for the Commission not to take into account what Parliament has to say about TTIP, considering that MEPs will have the final say.

 

But in order to get this resolution, we need the numbers. Since we don't command a majority on our own, or even together with the Greens and the radical Left, this means agreeing common demands with the conservatives and/or liberals.

 

In this context, this week, we made a great first step forward. In the trade committee we've adopted a resolution that set out our positions on a wide array of issues. It is just a first step: texts adopted in committee (meaning, by 41 MEPs) must then be voted by the plenary of the European Parliament (all 751 MEPs). This second vote will take place on 10 June.

 

One such position contained in this resolution calls for a broad carve-out of all public services. Here is the full text of what was adopted:

 

"to build on the joint statement reflecting the negotiators’ clear commitment to exclude current and future Services of General Interest as well as Services of General Economic Interest from the scope of application of TTIP, (including but not limited to water, health, social services, social security systems and education), to ensure that national and local authorities retain the full right  to introduce, adopt, maintain or repeal any measures with regards to the commissioning, organisation, funding and provision of public services as provided in the Treaties as well as  in the EU's negotiating mandate  ; this exclusion should apply irrespective of how the services are provided and funded;"

 

This is largely based on recommendations we've received from public services users, providers and employees. With this clause we are sending a clear message to the Commission that we won't accept anything that could impact the NHS and other public services in TTIP. This was already the position of the Labour Party and European Socialists. It is now the position of the trade committee, and hopefully it will become the position of the whole European Parliament on 10 June.

 

Anyone that has heard David Cameron call our concerns for the NHS "nonsense" last November can appreciate that this is a very significant victory.

 

We have also managed to secure strong provisions to defend binding labour safeguards in the agreement, so as to prevent social dumping. We reached a great outcome on standards too. The text we agreed on the infamous "regulatory cooperation", which some multinationals and Tory MEPs view as a way to bypass Parliament in order to slash our standards, clearly rejects any kind of undemocratic power grab. 

 

On private tribunals - known as ISDS or Investor State Dispute Settlement - the outcome reached in the trade committee is a clear step forward even though it is not ideal. I had tabled an unambiguous amendment against ISDS, for which I had gathered support of 66 Socialist MEPs. This amendment was incorporated in a compromise text, together with all other amendments on the topic. The compromise adopted reads as follow:

 

"to ensure the applicability of international agreements, to bring an end to the unequal treatment of European investors in the US on account of existing agreements of Member States; to ensure that foreign investors are treated in a non-discriminatory fashion and have a fair opportunity to seek and achieve redress of grievances while benefiting from no greater   rights than domestic investors:

 

  • to build on the concept paper recently presented by Commissioner Malmström to INTA Committee on May 7 as a basis for negotiations on an effective investment protection clause, as it provides very welcome proposals for reform and improvement 
  • taking into account the EU's and the US' developed legal systems, to trust  the courts of the EU and of the Member States and of the United States to provide effective legal protection based on the principle of democratic legitimacy, efficiently and in a cost-effective  manner;
  • to propose a permanent solution 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, where consistency of judicial decisions is ensured and the jurisdiction of courts of the EU and of the Member States is respected
  • in the medium term, a public International Investment Court could be the most appropriate means to address investment disputes"

 

I have made my position on ISDS clear time and again. I believe that while we may include investment protection rules in trade deals, such as TTIP, I don't believe that these rules should be enforced through special private tribunals in which multinationals can secretly sue governments. I have defended the use of national courts in TTIP, and I'm sympathetic to the idea of creating an international tribunal in the medium or long run so that all countries would have access to the same system, as long as this tribunal is not based on arbitral justice. Therefore, I have made it very clear that I will vote against TTIP in the end if it contains ISDS.

 

Nothing in the compromise above goes against my position on TTIP. In fact, it's very much a step in the right direction as it does not mention ISDS, while it says that we should trust national courts in TTIP. To me this means no ISDS in TTIP.

 

This is not the end of our fight. On 10 June, the text we adopted this week in committee will be put to the vote in a plenary session of the European Parliament. We will have the possibility to table amendments again, and I will continue to press for a strong position from the Parliament that says explicitly "no ISDS in TTIP". Labour MEPs will of course support such a move, but in order to win this vote, we'll need to get some Tory, UKIP and Lib-Dem MEPs to join us - and you can make a difference in helping us to convince them.

Jude

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commented 2015-06-11 12:41:57 +0100
On ISDS: pleased don’t be fooled! Insist 115 is ditched:

A key point here is that Labour MEPs should reject any separate court system for transnational or foreign companies, regardless of whether that system is called ISDS or not. This is because a separate system would retain some of the intrinsic threats in the ISDS.

Thus Labour should support Amendment 27 together with the Greens – which rejects ISDS or any alternative to domestic courts, and more importantly it should ditch 115 – which includes a proposed compromise for an alternative separate court system for TNC’s/foreign investors.

So what are these intrinsic threats?
- Acting in one direction only: investor to state, thus excluding state to investor, public citizens to investor, NGOs representing citizens rights to investor, Unions to investor…
- Such a system still threatens to give legal primacy for profits over public interests, the latter including human rights, democratic principles, health and safety, labour rights, environment including climate, wildlife…

115 is thus dangerously flawed and must be ditched.

Amendment 115 has quite rightly been described by Alex Scrivener of GJN (Global Justice Now) as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Here’s his insightful piece on GJN’s website: http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/blog/2015/jun/8/five-things-watch-out-wednesday%E2%80%99s-key-vote-ttip
commented 2015-06-11 11:39:15 +0100
But when the proponents of TTIP decide that democracy is not the way forward – or is not the rubber stamp they were expecting – and take their ball away, then don’t you owe it to the rest of us to drop the subtleties and state firmly “in that case we’ll have none of it!”

And if not, why not?
commented 2015-06-11 11:02:31 +0100
Dear Tony, thanks for leaving a message. It is not our position to be anti-TTIP. Our position is to ensure that it is a good deal people. This means being against ISDS, against inclusion of public services, and against a decline in workers´ rights and environmental standards. Thanks again for getting in touch.
commented 2015-06-11 10:35:19 +0100
With the vote on TIPP being withdrawn at the last minute due to the fact that Cecilia ( I do not take my mandate from the people of Europe ) Malstrom, is running scared of the people of Europe and realises that she and her multi national business friends cannot get their way, will you now realise that the voices of the people of Europe are strong in opposition to TIPP and vote against TIPP in it’s entirety?
commented 2015-06-04 19:44:13 +0100
Thanks G. I totally understand your viewpoint and that’s why we’re talking to people about why Jude voted the way she did. So the vote last week was in the trade committee and Jude voted for an amendment that said that we should trust our courts, which could be interpreted as being no to ISDS but that she would have prefered to see ISDS explicitly ruled out. Next week the report moves to the plenary session of the whole Parliament and a stronger amendment explicitly ruling ISDS out has been reintroduced. She voted for the less strong language in the trade committee report which had strong language about excluding public services like the NHS from TTIP. It is all about the stages of the report going through the Parliament and the strongest language that can be agreed at each. Keep watching here for how the main plenary vote goes next week. Thanks
commented 2015-06-04 18:42:21 +0100
“Thanks Mark but we’re just making sure that people have the facts – there are lots of articles on this site about TTIP and ISDS which make Jude’s position clear which people are very welcome to read. "

SO… either Jude’s position is clear and she did not vote NO, in line with her position. (Her position being “do not vote NO”) – is that the case? Or her position is clear and it is to oppose this, yet she did not vote in line with her position, so what’s the point of taking that position?

And people wonder why politicians get such a bad rap!
commented 2015-06-02 10:22:41 +0100
Thanks Mark but we’re just making sure that people have the facts – there are lots of articles on this site about TTIP and ISDS which make Jude’s position clear which people are very welcome to read.
commented 2015-06-02 09:50:56 +0100
Matt – you’re clearly attempting damage-limitation, but it merely serves to point out that damage has been done. It remains unclear why Jude voted, against all expectation, the way she did. And your mention of UKIP fails to understand that, just like the stopped clock which is at least right twice a day, consistency of vote sometimes means they do the right thing.

Saddest of all is that you fail to comprehend – let alone reply to – the view that Jude’s action gives credence to the UKIP view of Europe: i.e. that it’s not about principle, it’s about a conspiracy against ordinary people. Which, given the name and origins of your party, should give you the clue about how to vote.
commented 2015-06-02 09:20:55 +0100
Hi. Thanks for leaving comments, few points to make. We have made the information public because it is important that people know why Jude voted and the next steps. Just to respond to a few points below – the intention is to reintroduce the anti-ISDS into the main plenary session of the Parliament. In terms of the UKIP voting against you may be aware that UKIP vote against almost everything in the Parliament. We’ll be posting an update today on the site about what will happen next.
commented 2015-06-01 21:20:14 +0100
So, if I’ve understood your lengthy account, you know you’ve done the wrong thing but feel obliged to justify it. This, frankly, stinks. How dare you do this in our name. You’ve been corralled – but who by? The Labour Party? Or should I say, the party that dare not speak its name. Thank you for killing my last feeble hopes. Yours is the kind of action that will ensure that the Tories wish to come out of Europe is granted. First at Westminster and now in Europe, Labour shows it has no principles. What pro-Europe support can you possibly hope to retain?
commented 2015-06-01 20:13:24 +0100
Why would you pretend to need UKIP support when the only UKIP MEP was the only one to vote against the whole package! You should aligning with him, and telling us why you did not, rather than pretending you are occupying the high ground. By the way, we could not care less which ‘party’ votes against TTIP and especially the ISDS element- we simply care that you DO vote against it. If there is a reason the public will ignore the political classes and vote OUT of the EU this may well be it.
commented 2015-06-01 19:28:39 +0100
A “public International Investment Court” is NOT the way to deal with this. Since when did corporations achieve equality of status with sovereign democratically elected governments? TTIP and ISDS just moves us to that position and it is NOT a position any majority of voters in any country wants. No democratically elected government should be told what it can and cannot do by some unaccountable “International Investment Court” which will only have the remit to make decisions based on the letter of the law (the treaty) and interpretation of the ‘facts’ of a case with no latitude for any applied judgement. I understand your tactical approach, but itonly encourages the other side. You need to be more robust. Just vote NO. Keep voting NO. Find ways to make it clear to the ‘free trade’ bigots (i.e. the bought and paid for corporate lackeys in democratically elected positions, who think that everything good comes from corporations and nothing good can come from anywhere else) that their constituents will not forgive them if they don’t start standing up to corporate interests in the cause of national sovereignty and constituent/consumer interest. Tell the people you are trying to build a consensus with that it is up to THEM to find ways to get YOU on board (by compromising)- not for you to find ways to mollify (compromise with) them! You cannot build a consensus with people who are simply trying to find a way to minimise your opposition to what their corporate masters want. Governments exist to REGULATE corporations, not give them ever-wider freedoms to trample on the rest of us. A fact most current EU governments seem to have forgotten.
commented 2015-05-31 22:52:53 +0100
From Dr Henry Adams, Kendal

The INTA report is dangerous to us in many ways, but as an ecologist I’ll focus here on one:
CLIMATE CHANGE My apologies if all this is obvious
The INTA report shares with TTIP and CETA the promotion of free trade and investment in fossil fuels. This it puts above our urgent and vital need to tackle climate change by reducing carbon emissions and leaving 80% of fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

This I quote from the European Parliament News on the INTA report:

“More access to US energy resources
The TTIP should abolish “any existing restrictions or impediments of export for fuels, including LNG and crude oil” between the EU and the US, so that the deal adds to EU energy security and reduces energy prices, say MEPs. The TTIP deal should include a specific energy chapter, which must also help maintain the EU’s environmental standards and climate action goals, they add.”

Europarl European Parliament News ‘TTIP more US market access, reform investment protection, retain EU standards’
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/content/20150528IPR60432/html/TTIP-more-US-market-access-reform-investment-protection-retain-EU-standards Note how the two sentences contradict each other, because the first sentence goes against climate action goals in a very big way.

This is not just because the first sentence promotes the free trade liberalisation of fossil fuels, obviously bad in itself, but also because those fossil fuels produced in the USA and Canada have a higher ‘life-cycle carbon emissions intensity’ than those from the diminishing ‘conventional’ sources of fossil fuels. For example:

- US fracked gas has an extra double whammy of added emissions, because not only do we get that from LNG conversion (which we get from gas from the Middle East but not from Norway), but also because the low regulatory standards for fracking in the USA and Canada result in added “fugitive emissions” of methane, which can up the life-cycle emissions from about half that of coal to near to coal. For the US to export such gas it would need to build new LNG conversion infrastructure – an expensive investment which would also take much time.

- The US refineries, as well as the tar sands industry in Canada (hence a motive for CETA), wish to export tar sands products to Europe. Tar sands oil (bitumen) has a much higher life cycle emissions intensity than conventional oil. And then there are the extra emissions from US fracked oil to consider…

Furthermore, the ‘energy security’ argument which fossil fuel supporters so love, is flawed, because there is greater long-term energy security in the combination of demand reduction measures and clean green renewable energy than in increasing dependence on fossil fuels, and the Russian threat to gas supplies is a great opportunity to go for the green alternatives. The latter have shown to be possible by such studies as CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain. There is great scope for reducing gas demand for heating by insulation of buildings. Also see appended references by Tony Bosworth FoE and Prof Michael Bradshaw

In conclusion – the INTA report is unacceptable for climate change reasons on their own, as well as being unacceptable on other grounds.

Dr Henry Adams, Consultant Ecologist, Kendal @henryadamsuk

Useful refs re the ‘energy security’ argument:
‘Forget fracking – efficiency and renewables are the key to energy security’ – by Tony Bosworth of FoE in The Ecologist.
http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/Blogs/2885951/forget_fracking_efficiency_and_renewables_are_the_key_to_energy_security.html

And his reference to Prof Bradshaw’s report: “Energy security expert Professor Michael Bradshaw summed this up well in a prescient report he wrote for Friends of the Earth three years ago:
“The best way to reduce the energy security risks associated with the UK’s growing gas import dependence is to … promote renewable power generation, improve energy efficiency and reduce overall energy demand.”
commented 2015-05-30 15:31:40 +0100
Hi. Thanks for the comments. As the article above shows that Jude is listening to people and would vote against TTIP if it includes ISDS.
commented 2015-05-30 10:35:33 +0100
Why do you people not show any respect for the voters wishes.
The people of Europe do not want TTIP, especially ISDS, it is a dangerous road to take. It will destroy all that is fundamental to the British people. Your resolution means nothing, it is typical committee speak.
Go the whole hog, and vote on behalf of your constituents.
The attitude of the unelected Trade Commissioner is the very reason to get out of Europe. I will be voting OUT
commented 2015-05-30 07:43:56 +0100
If your own approach is going to work then the International Tribunal will need to be part of the deal from the start. History of other trade treaties have shown that if it is not then the corporations WILL sue to overturn the decisions of democratically-elected Governments. Current arrangements seem to stack the odds in their favour if ISDS not dropped..
commented 2015-05-30 03:11:34 +0100
I agree with Nicholas & Thomas. This entire resolution seems like nothing more than rearranging deckchairs. If you insist on going down this road of offering qualified support for TTIP then the provision of environmental protections, public health measures, and emissions reduction schemes must be explicitly added to text as ‘Services of General Interest’ – protecting the NHS is meaningless if multinationals can exploit TTIP to pollute & poison our homes, food, & environment.
commented 2015-05-29 19:42:41 +0100
John Hilary, the Executive Director of War on Want met I met with Cecilia Malmström, the EU Trade Commissioner responsible for TTIP, in her private office earlier this year and asked her whether she was bothered that the people of Europe were up in arms against her.

Her response came back icily: ‘I do not take my mandate from the European people.’

Malmström’s handling of the ISDS question reveals all too clearly her contempt for democratic legitimacy. Rather than respect the public’s rejection of her plans, the Trade Commissioner is determined to press ahead with a ‘new and improved’ version of ISDS, which singularly fails to address the fundamental issue raised in the consultation: why would we wish to give US corporations something that Malmström herself has characterized as a ‘VIP line to justice’?

As one MEP remarked caustically on being shown the new proposal: put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. – See more at: http://newint.org/blog/2015/05/26/ttip-vote-european-parliament/#sthash.rdRPRW8v.dpuf

T Mulcahy
commented 2015-05-29 19:31:10 +0100
John Hilary is Executive Director of War on Want. His introductory guide to TTIP, available in a dozen European languages, has now been republished in an updated 2015 edition, and can be freely downloaded from waronwant.org/ttip. – See more at: http://newint.org/blog/2015/05/26/ttip-vote-european-parliament/#sthash.rdRPRW8v.dpuf .

May I suggest Jude and Paul read the above, as both of them seem to be out of touch with what the people of Europe want, and it’s not TTIP.

T Mulcahy
commented 2015-05-29 17:03:59 +0100
I can’t see any mention of environmental protection or animal welfare measures in any of this discussion. How is this proposed legislation going to ensure that these are not threatened by action from organisations concerned exclusively with profit at any cost?

North East Labour MEPs

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