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Jun 2nd, 2015

What happened at the TTIP committee vote: the facts

By bex

Last Thursday, members of the European Parliament voted in support of one of the worst bits of the TTIP trade deal – the part that would let corporations sue our government if our laws dent their profits.

Five politicians from the UK had a vote, as part of the International Trade Committee in Brussels. They were David Campbell Bannerman, Emma McClarkin, David Martin, William Dartmouth and Jude Kirton-Darling. The official record of how they voted is here.

The Trade Committee were voting on a ‘resolution’ on TTIP. They put together a set of recommendations about the deal, including potential red lines, which all MEPs are set to vote on next week in the European Parliament. The resolution they’ve passed is not legally binding – but it sends a strong message to the European Commission, who are negotiating TTIP. The message they send to the European Commission really matters.

They had a chance to vote out the dangerous idea of corporations suing government if our laws dent their profits. But the resolution still contained a version of what’s called the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism: the dangerous part of the deal that could see corporations suing the government using ISDS. And the resolution passed by 28 votes to 13.

Only William Dartmouth, UKIP MEP for the South West, voted against from the UK.

Here’s what the relevant part of the resolution said:

“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 as a basis for negotiations on an effective investment protection clause, as it provides 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.”

You can read the resolution in official European Parliament documents here, on page 19.

Labour MEPs Jude Kirton-Darling and David Martin replied to 38 Degrees members saying they opposed giving corporations these extended powers – and would be voting to oppose it. Jude Kirton-Darling added an amendment – amendment 762 – to the resolution. It proposed scrapping ISDS altogether. But that amendment didn’t end up getting into the final agreement. They struck a deal to agree a weaker compromise amendment instead.

If you want to understand why the final compromise agreement isn’t good enough, you need to look at what their original amendment said. It’s below – and it’s clear when you look at it that it takes a much stronger stand against ISDS. It even says that the European Parliament should ‘oppose the inclusion of ISDS in TTIP’.

Paragraph 1 – point d – point xiv:

(xiv) 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 ISDS in TTIP, as other options to enforce investment protection are available, such as domestic remedies;
But at the last minute, this amendment was taken down.

Labour MEPs, as part of the Socialist and Democratic group in Europe, made a compromise deal with the Liberal and Conservative members on the committee. They agreed a compromise amendment that still allowed a form of ISDS in the deal.

So Jude Kirton Darling and David Martin voted through the resolution, including this compromise amendment. Emma McClarkin, the Conservative MEP for East Midlands, voted in favour of the resolution. And the other Conservative MEP, David Campbell Bannerman, did not show up.

Overall, the result means that the right for corporations to sue the government if our laws dent their profits has not yet been voted out. Even Jude Kirton-Darling – one of the MEPs who voted for the resolution – admits that the outcome was ‘not ideal’ (source).

You can read news reports on this here and here.

You can see the final roll call for the votes in the Trade Committee – both on the TTIP resolution as a whole, and the watered-down version of ISDS – on the European Parliament website here. You can see the texts of the resolution here.

You can read MEPs’ reactions to what happened in the vote below:

The European Free Alliance blog: Socialist MEPs capitulate on investor protection; draft resolution backs TTIP’s corporate agenda.

You can read Jude Kirton-Darling’s explanation of what happened here.

William Dartmouth MEP slams Labour for failing to protect the NHS against TTIP in the European Parliament.

John Hilary, Executive Director from War on Want, who has written many of the in-depth briefings of exactly what’s at stake with TTIP, posted this response.

What next?

It’s not game over. There’s another, bigger, vote on TTIP less than two weeks away – and we’ve got a plan to help us win.

We’ve exposed the MEPs from the UK who aren’t taking a stand. We’ve put their faces across their local newspapers – everywhere their constituents will see. MEPs won’t want to be shown up in front of their voters. We’ve only got a couple of weeks, but together, we can make them scared not to take a stand.

Right now MEPs seem to be scared to take a strong enough stand against the deal. Even MEPs who had pledged to vote the right way caved into pressure, rather than standing up for what they said they believed in – a democracy that puts people before corporate profits.

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