About 150,000 people have responded to the European Commission’s online consultation on the controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
In January, the EU executive stopped trade negotiations with the US on the ISDS mechanism. It launched the online consultation in March after widespread criticism of the clause, which will allow EU and US based corporations to directly sue governments at international tribunals.
The online consultation sparked “very substantial interest”, the Commission said. More than 99% of the 149,399 replies came from individuals, with a particularly large number submitted in collective actions by civil society organisations.
The Commission said it would analyse the replies before it explained the next steps it would take. That is unlikely to happen before November, it added.
Most replies were from the United Kingdom (52,008), followed by Austria (33,753), Germany (32,513), France (9,791), Belgium (9,397), the Netherlands (4,906) and Spain (2,537).
The recent public consultation into the review of EU copyright rules, which closed in March this year, only had about 9,500 replies. More than 11,000 messages to a dedicated email address were also recorded. The Commission said it had “generated broad interest”. In a press release on Friday (24 July), the executive said it was, “one of the highest response rates ever for a Commission consultation”.
A 2013 public consultation, lasting three months, into whether the EU should regulate fracking – the extraction of shale gas – generated 22,000 replies, a figure dwarfed by the TTIP response.
Preliminary findings showed 569 organisations gave their opinion on the investment protection measures. 180 were non-government organisations (NGOs), 22 umbrella NGOs, 42 were EU trade union organisations, and 11 were government institutions and regulators. 66 trade associations representing EU businesses, 66 companies, 42 law firms, 15 consultancy firms also answered.
738 respondents, 0.5% of the total replies from businesses and individuals , admitted they had made an investment in the USA.
More than half of the respondents (79,444) refused to allow their contribution to be made public on the Commission’s website. But 91.39% of the organisations and 39.37% of individuals agreeing to the publication of their reply, also agreed to their name being published with the contribution.
The preliminary findings were released last night by the Commission. It follows last week’s sixth round of negotiations over the landmark free trade agreement in Brussels, which were greeted with protests.
— EU TTIP Team (@EU_TTIP_team) July 23, 2014
The consultation was built around twelve issues, including the scope of the investment protection provisions, transparency in ISDS, multiple claims and relationship to domestic courts, ensuring consistency of rulings and the appeal mechanism, and reducing the risk of frivolous cases.
Unions, environmental groups and MEPs, including Bernd Lange, the German Socialist Chairman of the European Parliament’s trade committee, have called for ISDS to be dropped from TTIP. Former Spitzenkandidat Ska Keller has called for the talks to be dropped altogether (here).
They argue that ISDS could be used by multinational corporations to bypass national courts and whittle away EU standards and regulations across a range of policies from the environment to food safety to social protection. The talks have also been dogged by accusations of a lack of transparency.
Negotiations between the US and the EU on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) started in July 2013.
Since then, a new European Parliament has been formed which is markedly more Eurosceptic than the previous one and more likely to oppose free trade.
If successful, TTIP would cover more than 40% of global GDP and account for large shares of world trade and foreign direct investment. The EU-US trade relationship is already the biggest in the world. Traded goods and services are worth €2 billion.
TTIP would be the biggest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated, resulting in millions of euros of savings for companies and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. It is claimed that average European households would gain an extra €545 annually, and that Europe's economy would be boosted by around 0.5% of GDP, if such a deal was fully implemented.
Brussels and Washington have set the ambitious goal of completing negotiations by the end of 2014.
- End of 2014: Official target date for end of negotiations