TTIP – EU beginning to run scared? Greens/PC at forefront of opposition; Labour sitting on the fence as usual

I am pleased report that through various channels, such as the 38 Degrees channel I promoted a few days ago, MEPs have had huge amounts of feedback from people across Europe. Jill Evans (PC MEP) describes the response and the concerns here (click on image):

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This pressure was all geared towards influencing the vote on TTIP by MEPs today.

In unusual circumstances, the vote in the European Parliament on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal was cancelled yesterday.

The official line from the Parliament was that because more than 200 amendments were tabled the vote should be postponed to enable the Trade Committee to consider the amendments before tabling them for a future plenary session.

Campaigners and Greens believe the controversial deal will remove standards and protections that are currently enshrined in laws across the EU and US. Examples of these regulations include labour rights that protect people at work, environmental regulations and food safety laws. Of particular concern is the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism which would potentially allow corporations to sue Governments in secret courts if a Government passed laws which limited a corporation’s profits or activity. More than 2 million EU citizens have signed a petition against the deal.

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England, said:

“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. The deal 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 environments and animal welfare.”

As a point of information, when I contacted the 4 MEPs for Wales about this vote I received absolutely no contact from Conservative, Kay Swinburne, or uber-Conservative, UKIP’s Nathan Gill. No surprise there then. The Green/EFA block to which Jill and the Green MEPs belong are consistently at the forefront of opposition to the whole concept . Welsh Labour, as seems to be their perpetual position these days, are firmly on the fence.

I received a full response from our Labour MEP, Derek Vaughan, that puts their position clear enough. I quote:

Let me reassure you that as a Labour MEP, I am fully opposed to ISDS and will vote accordingly on June 10th.

The votes on Wednesday in the European Parliament on TTIP aim at giving a clear view from the European Parliament to EU negotiators on what would or would not be acceptable to MEPs in the final TTIP deal. The vote will be a guide to them as they negotiate TTIP over the coming years.

This is not a vote for or against TTIP itself. Only once the final text is presented to the European Parliament will MEPs have the chance to support or oppose the deal. Until this happens – and it will probably take years before negotiations are concluded – there is no TTIP to vote for or against. MEPs have no formal powers while trade negotiations are ongoing: we can only vote yes or no to the entire deal once negotiations are concluded. Crucially, we cannot stop negotiations either. So we will judge the TTIP by its merits, and in the meantime try to influence the negotiations so that all of our concerns are properly addressed.

Last week Labour MEPs supported a report by the trade committee, which is the text that will be put to vote in the European Parliament on June 10th. The text includes key protections for the NHS and public services and binding labour and environmental safeguards. It also clearly states that we will not accept any lowering of our food standards.

Importantly, it states that we trust national courts in the case of investor protection disputes, as opposed to special ISDS tribunals. The report doesn’t go far enough on ISDS, but it is an important step in the right direction. We will now try to strengthen the reports’ provisions against ISDS, to make it absolutely clear that the European Parliament refuses to have it in TTIP.

Labour MEPs have therefore tabled amendments that explicitly rule out ISDS from any trade deal with the US. The amendments read as follows:

Amendment 27 “…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…”

Amendment 115 “… to propose a permanent solution for resolving disputes between investors and states – without the use of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) private arbitration – which is subject to democratic principles and scrutiny…”

He concludes by saying: “we must seize every opportunity we have to set a new agenda. TTIP represents such an opportunity, and that’s why Labour is not ruling it out at this stage.”

I don’t know whether this is Labour being naive or deceitful. They are not going to be given a full draft to consider and be allowed to veto. They will end up endorsing it as fully paid up members of the neoliberal club. It seems to me to be a bit like saying “We have no opposition to big 4×4 cars as long as we can have them weighing less than a ton and with a one litre engine.” It misunderstands the whole concept, and simply cannot be done like that.

It is not the only concept they seem to completely misunderstand. Try ‘Socialism’ for example!

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