MEPs give TTIP proposal a second try

Lawmakers vote on TTIP. [European Parliament]

The European Parliament Trade Committee decided on Monday (29 June) to give a non-binding resolution on the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) a second vote in plenary.

MEPs agreed to submit the proposal with its 116 amendments, some of which were introduced just before the vote in plenary earlier this month, causing its postponement.

“Today’s vote was a necessary step we had to take in committee to prepare the TTIP resolution to be put forward to vote in a future plenary session,” said Trade Committee Chair and rapporteur Bernd Lange, after the vote. 

The Lange report, which was adopted by the Committee on International Trade (INTA) on 28 May, has been heavily modified, as members of all the political groups try to reflect growing public opposition to the trade deal.

Much of the discord focuses on how companies settle disputes through extra-legal private arbitration. Some lawmakers fear that US multinationals will challenge European laws on grounds that they restrict free commerce, subordinating national laws to the market.

A compromise on ISDS was struck after a fierce horse-trading between political parties accepting that the controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement, albeit reformed, would remain part of the deal.

>>Read: MEPs give passing vote to TTIP

But the compromise was put back into question, when the S&D group said it would never accept any kind of private arbitration, as the EU and the US have reliable national courts which should be the regular venues to solve any dispute.

>>Read: Parliament’s vote in limbo

New amendments were then submitted to the plenary, which prompted European Parliament President Martin Schulz to postpone the vote, in order to avoid the public embarrassment of having the resolution defeated.

>>Read: Delayed TTIP vote drives wedge between grand coalition

Sources told EURACTIV that Lange is still trying to talk to the other political groups to see if there is some wording that would allow S&D to stick to its goal of overcoming private arbitration (ISDS), but leave room for the Commission to come up with an alternative.

Now the baton passes to the Parliament Conference of Presidents, who are supposed to decide whether or not the Lange report goes to the plenary in July, or wait until Fall.

In June 2013, EU heads of state and government authorised the Commission to start negotiating a free trade agreement with the US, giving guidelines concerning what the negotiations should include.

The guidelines stated that the EU should seek to include provisions on investment protection and investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in the proposed agreement.

Member states already have 1,400 ISDS-type agreements with other countries, some dating back to the 1950s. There is an urgent need for reform, and everybody agrees.

>>Read: Special report: TTIP and the Arbitration Clause

The EU executive consulted the public on its approach to investment protection and ISDS in the TTIP, asking whether the EU’s strategy achieves the right balance between protecting investors, and safeguarding the EU's right and ability to regulate in the public interest.

Negotiations on investment in TTIP were suspended in January 2014. They will only resume once the Commission believes its new proposals guarantee, among other things, that the jurisdiction of national courts won’t be limited by special regimes for investor-to-state disputes.

The final decision, which must be ratified by both EU Council and Parliament in a full vote, will only be taken with the agreement of European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker gave Timmermans the veto. He will ensure that ISDS complies with the rule of law, and principles of equality and transparency, according to a memo published by the executive.

>>Read our LinksDossier: TTIP for dummies

  • 2 July: European Parliament Conference of presidents
  • 13-17 July: 10th round of EU-US trade talks in Brussels

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