Update – The MEPs’ vote on TTIP tomorrow has been cancelled.
“The decision to cancel the vote on TTIP stinks of political parties in the European Parliament running scared of the huge public opposition to TTIP.
TTIP represents a monumental power grab by corporations and it must be stopped in its tracks.”
Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for South West England said:
“This attempt to remove the right of all MEPs to vote on this very important report on TTIP is nothing short of a scandal. Thousands of constituents have emailed me today and I will not be cheated of my right to represent their will to oppose ISDS and the undermining of European protection of the environment and animal welfare.”
On 10 June 2015, the European Parliament was to have voted on a resolution – and loads of amendments to the resolution – about the US-EU Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP). The EU and US have been negotiating TTIP for years and it will not be finalised before 2016.
2 million people across the EU have signed a European Citizens’ Initiative demanding a stop to negotiations on TTIP. You’d hope that Members of the European Parliament will think about this when making their vote on 10th June.
But however MEPs vote, the resolution is only a political statement which is not binding on the EU Commission negotiators. And Cecilia Malmström, the EU Trade Commissioner responsible for TTIP, has said:
‘I do not take my mandate from the European people.’
The only real power the EU Parliament has over TTIP is the power to veto a final text of the TTIP treaty.
This can only be done once negotiations are over, when a final agreement is tabled for ratification.
Regardless of the lack of formal power attached to the EU Parliament’s TTIP resolution on 10th June, John Hilary, Director of War on Want, points out that,
“If the European Parliament passes a resolution that is supportive of TTIP in the face of such unprecedented public opposition, it will open up a new phase in our understanding of the institutions of the EU.”
Calderdale campaigner tells Yorkshire MEP “TTIP is superfluous and undesirable”
The draft resolution that MEPs are to vote on welcomes the inclusion of investor-state-dispute-settlement (ISDS) in TTIP. This would allow American corporations to sue EU country governments in private courts for practically any state action that interferes with investments and lowers their expected profit. This would undermine the rule of law and democratic principles.
However, some MEPs have proposed an amendment to the resolution that opposes the inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in TTIP, on the grounds that:
“other options to enforce investment protection are available, such as domestic remedies”
This amendment did not impress Calderdale 38 Degrees NHS Campaign group secretary Rosemary Hedges, who went to Huddersfield on Saturday 6th June to meet Richard Corbett, Labour MEP, and ask him to vote to stop TTIP.
“About 25 people turned up to meet Richard Corbett. We told him we were totally opposed to TTIP in all its manifestations, with or without any compromises and negotiations. He said the MEPs’ Socialist Group would be ok with it if they dropped certain bits like ISDS and included harmonising regulatory standards. He believes public services, even if they are part-privatised, can be exempted just by a government listing those they want exempted. Not sure I share his optimism. Anyway, apparently our government has not included the NHS on the list!
We stated that there is no evidence of any benefits guaranteed for the populations of any of the countries involved, only for the big corporations so in our view TTIP is superfluous and undesirable, and we asked him to represent our views accordingly.”
Potential NHS devastation at the hands of American companies
Privatised and part-privatised public services can’t be exempted from TTIP; and the NHS is already effectively privatised, according to the definition of privatisation used by the World Health Organisation.
This means the NHS is a “service of general economic interest” and so comes under TTIP. Only “non-economic services of general interest”, ie public services with no commercial involvement, can be exempted from TTIP.
TTIP’s ISDS mechanisms could devastate the NHS – for instance, if a Clinical Commissioning Group awarded a contract to an NHS organisation rather than an American company that had bid for the contract, this would be grounds for the American company to challenge the decision through the secret investor-state courts.
Similarly, if by a miracle our MPs vote to renationalise the NHS by passing the 2015 NHS Reinstatement Bill, American private health companies could take the government to the secret investor-state courts for loss of profits.
TTIP is about reducing barriers to American corporate profits
TTIP is not a traditional trade agreement aimed at reducing border tariffs, which are already at minimal levels between the EU and USA.
Instead, TTIP focuses on dismantling the ‘barriers’ to corporate profit that exist behind the EU border – namely, regulations on social standards, food standards, labour rights and the environment; these protect both people and nature.
Plus, through ISDS measures, TTIP is set to grant US corporations the power to sue European governments for potential loss of profits in a parallel, private judicial system available to them alone.
The so-called ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ mechanism (ISDS) already exists in Europe (and elsewhere) – for instance under the ISDS clause of a treaty on energy investments, the Swedish utility Vattenfall, that operates two nuclear plants in Germany, is suing the German government for €3.7bn compensation for its decision shut down its nuclear power industry.
But TTIP would extend this power to US companies that operate in the EU, providing the opportunity to demand compensation wherever they felt that their ‘legitimate expectations’ had been upset by the passage of new laws or regulations.
According to the official British government’s assessment commissioned from the London School of Economics at the beginning of the TTIP negotiations, taxpayers will be forced to pay billions if the new power is approved. – See more here.
On his website, Richard Corbett MEP writes,
“Within the European Parliament, Labour MEPs, our colleagues in the Socialist Group, and many others have made it clear that we will oppose TTIP if it threatens public services in general and the health service in particular by allowing American companies to tender against public provision — or if it creates a ratchet effect whereby privatised health provision cannot be brought back under public control.”
But American companies can and do already tender against public provision, because most of our public services are already privatised and subject to EU competition law, which requires that contracts for public services are open to all qualified companies to bid for.
For instance, the American health insurance company United Health (the former employer of NHS England’s boss Simon Stevens) has rebranded itself as Optum and is bidding (and winning) contracts to support clinical commissioning groups – at the same time as it is bidding for contracts FROM clinical commissioning groups.
The inclusion of ISDS within TTIP would make it next to impossible to bring such privatised health provision back under public control and ownership, because of the massive compensation that American private health companies like United Health/Optum would demand.
Links to the resolution and amendments
The EU Parliament’s TTIP resolution is very long, with numerous sections or clauses covering different aspects of TTIP.
Here is the Resolution.
The resolution covers ISDS in Section (d) regarding the rules, clauses xiv & xv.
Clause xiv says:
“ to ensure that investment protection provisions are limited to post-establishment provisions and focus on national treatment, most-favoured nation, fair and equitable treatment and protection against direct and indirect expropriation, including the right to prompt, adequate and effective compensation; standards of protection and definitions of investor and investment should be drawn up in a precise legal manner protecting the right to regulate in the public interest, clarifying the meaning of indirect expropriation and preventing unfounded or frivolous claims; free transfer of capital should be in line with the EU treaty provisions and should include a prudential carve-out not limited in time in the case of financial crises;”
Clause xv says:
“- 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 and the ongoing discussions in the Trade Ministers’ Council and to use them as a basis for negotiations on a new and effective system of investment protection, as they provide 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;”
The Socialist Group MEPs have proposed an amendment to Section d Clause xv, as follows:
“(xv) 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 oppose the inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in TTIP, as other options to enforce investment protection are available, such as domestic remedies”
All the amendments are here.