September update on the work that Labour MEPs and their colleagues in the Socialists and Democrats group on the ongoing TTIP negotiations.
As you know, we have been working hard to influence the European Commission about proposals to include the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) arbitration system within any future TTIP deal. Last week we had some success in this, with the Commission putting forward proposals to reform ISDS. They are clearly feeling and responding to the pressure that we are putting them under.
The Commission now proposes that future claims by international investors and multinational corporations against states, under the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and future EU trade agreements, will be dealt with by an Investment Court System (ICS).
Jude Kirton-Darling MEP, Labour's European Parliament spokesperson on TTIP and the EU-Canada trade agreement (CETA), has led opposition to ISDS in the European Parliament and has been making the case to the UK government, the Commission and US negotiators that having any form of ISDS in TTIP is not a good idea.
In July, we voted against the Parliament's resolution on TTIP because the text did not fully exclude ISDS. The recent proposals demonstrate that the Commission has finally recognised ISDS is fundamentally flawed. By consequence, the Commission must address the flawed ISDS clauses included in EU trade agreements which are waiting for parliament's approval, especially in the CETA (Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement) text which will be coming to parliament for ratification in 2016.
We will be reserving our judgement on the detail of the proposals until a thorough legal analysis has been possible, but it is clear that there is little appetite amongst Labour MEPs to accept a mere rebranding of ISDS.
Five years ago there was a proposal for secret arbitration behind closed doors, led by corporate lawyers able to challenge legitimate public policy measures with no means of redress. This was simply not acceptable to Labour MEPs. Now there is a proposal from the Commission for qualified judges presiding over public hearings with the right of governments to regulate clearly enshrined.
As I have said previously, trade in itself can be a good thing as it creates jobs and growth. The deal between Europe and America has the potential to grow our local economy. Global trade has to be regulated and must not lead to a race to the bottom on standards. Labour MEPs have tabled lots of the amendments which would give protection to ordinary people.
Labour MEPs have listened carefully to the concerns of the many people in the UK who have shown an interest in this matter and have worked hard to make sure that any trade deal could have a positive impact on people’s lives. We have been able to secure notable victories in this process but given the deal isn’t likely to be agreed for a number of years we will keep up the pressure.
To date our votes have been setting the opinion of the European Parliament and it may be many more years before a TTIP agreement emerges. When this happens, MEPs will have to decide whether to ratify or to veto the deal. We will review the deal on its merits, and oppose any TTIP that endangers our public services, our standards or our democratic rights.