02 Jul 2015   |   News

Parliament tip-toes closer to transatlantic trade deal

Centre-left bloc in European Parliament reaches agreement over controversial investor protection provision in the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Pact

The centre-left bloc in the European Parliament finally found agreement over the controversial investor protection provision in the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), with a large majority of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) backing a revised deal on Wednesday.

This comes a month after Parliament President and S&D head Martin Schulz pulled a vote on the trade measure in the full Parliament at the last minute, facing the embarrassing prospect that the S&D - the assembly’s second largest group after the centre-right European People’s Party - would not vote as one on the investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision.

A new compromise amendment states that the European Commission, which handles trade issues for the 28 EU member states, should, “Replace the ISDS-system with a new system for resolving disputes between investors and states”. Further, any cases should be mediated, “By publicly appointed, independent professional judges.”

Critics say ISDS, an ad-hoc court system found in many trade agreements, gives companies too much power in disputes with states. Rather than going to domestic courts, businesses can challenge government decisions affecting their investments in international arbitration tribunals.

A decision will be made today (2 July) on whether the Parliament’s non-binding resolution will go to a full vote in plenary this month. Parliamentarians do not have a seat in the ongoing negotiations with the US, which are being steered by senior Commission officials, but will vote to pass the final deal.

TTIP proposes a more open trade relationship between the EU and US, which proponents say will make it easier for European companies to sell products to the US market.

However, it still faces fierce opposition across Europe.  

Far-left, far-right and Green campaigners and lawmakers are desperate to keep ISDS out of TTIP. Both France and Germany have said that they want it removed from the TTIP.

Stop TTIP, a pressure group with over two million followers, warned before the S&D deal that, “Compromise on super-tribunals for companies, whether called ISDS or differently, is unacceptable.”

But the US has insisted ISDS must remain in any final agreement, forcing the Commission down a path of proposing a reformed version.

The next round of marathon negotiations over TTIP, which stands to become the biggest trade agreement in the world, is scheduled for 13-17 July in Brussels. Both parties aim to pass final legislation before 2018, while US President Barack Obama is still in office.

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