Lange: I want citizens and SMEs to benefit from TTIP, not BusinessEurope

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Bernd Lange, chair of the European Parliament International Trade Committee [European Parliament]

Ahead of a crucial vote in the European Parliament next week on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, Bernd Lange clarifies the S&D position in an exclusive op-ed for EURACTIV.

The lawmaker rejects private arbitration and accepts an investor protection system where democratic principles and public scrutiny are guaranteed.

MEP Bernd Lange is the chair of the European Parliament International Trade committee. Last week, the German Social Democrat reached an agreement with the European People’s Party to pass the non-binding resolution on TTIP in the committee. But he was criticised for having afterwards said he didn’t depart from the agreed S&D position adopted in March, which excludes ISDS. The contentious amendments focus on ISDS, but also on labour and environmental standards.

After a year and a half of negotiations, the European Parliament will soon vote on a recommendation on how the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations should be negotiated.

As the author of the parliamentary report, I have worked with all political groups trying to build a consensus, in light of the benefits that this new-generation agreement could bring for economic growth, job creation and also setting global standards for international trade.

The international committee in the Parliament already made very important recommendations that I hope will be maintained by the plenary next week: strong protection of labour rights and ratification of ILO convention; exclusion of public services – such as health or education – from the agreement; opening of US public procurement to EU companies; respect of environmental standards; respect for cultural diversity, and for geographical indicators, among others.

I know that the big multinationals and their lobby in Brussels, BusinessEurope, are not happy with this outcome. Of course not! But a fair TTIP is the only TTIP I would push for. That means a TTIP that will benefit citizens, consumers, workers, patients and SMEs. Because they are the ones who cannot afford to fight against multinationals in a globalised world if we don’t introduce some rules and standards. It is for them that I negotiate on behalf of the Parliament.

I know that these multinationals are also in favour of keeping the existing private arbitration mechanism known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which has become a focal point of the negotiation. On this, also, I cannot stand on the side of the big companies, who can afford expensive corporate lawyers to bypass national courts. Moreover, contrary to what BusinessEurope says, four committees in the European Parliament rejected the inclusion of ISDS in TTIP.

The Socialists and Democrats and myself have consistently defended our decision to not accept any private arbitration, as it was officially adopted by our group in March. Both the United States and the European Union have reliable national courts and any dispute should be solved through the regular procedure.

The text approved by the international trade committee last 28 March rejects private arbitration and accepts the possibility to envision some sort of investor protection system where democratic principles and public scrutiny are guaranteed. This would not be ISDS, and any such new system would need the green light from the European Parliament before we give our final consent to the TTIP agreement. The additional amendment tabled by my political group in the Plenary is just a clarification about what this system would look like.

The vote next week will not be the end of the dialogue between the Parliament and the Commission. We will continue to cooperate and shape the negotiations on behalf of the citizens we represent. The match is long, and we are still playing the first half.