EU faces double whammy with investor-to-state dispute settlement

In an interview with Inside U.S. Trade, European Parliament International Trade committee chairman Vital Moreira, talking about the trade negotiations with the United States (TTIP / TAFTA), defended the investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism. Under ISDS companies can sue states if new laws threaten to make expected profits lower. The cases are handled outside national court systems, by tribunals consisting of three investment lawyers. Civil society groups see ISDS as a threat to democracy. Moreira’s defense actually shows the discriminatory nature of investor-to-state dispute settlement and that the EU faces a double whammy with ISDS, through direct effect of treaties. Continue Reading →

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European Parliament waives the right to be informed

In an interview with Inside U.S. Trade, European Parliament International Trade committee Chairman Vital Moreira said, regarding the trade negotiations with the United States (TTIP / TAFTA), that he is not now pressing the European Commission to provide parliament members with access to U.S. negotiating proposals, but that could change if the U.S. authorizes the commission to share these proposals with member states. According to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union article 218 (10), the European Parliament shall be immediately and fully informed at all stages of the procedure. Apparently, the US demands that the EU violates its founding treaties. And the commission and parliament gave in. That’s not a good signal, giving in from the start. Continue Reading →

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Critical Dutch parliament resolution on investor – state dispute settlement

Yesterday the Dutch Parliament (Tweede Kamer) adopted a resolution critical of investor – state dispute settlement (Dutch, pdf). Google translation. My translation:

RESOLUTION OF THE MEMBER Van Ojik C.S.
Presented November 28, 2013

The House,

heard the deliberations,

noting that investor – state dispute settlement (ISDS), or arbitration under an investment treaty, may be part of the trade agreement between the United States and the European Union;

takes the view that inclusion of ISDS in the trade agreement has a number of undesirable consequences, including providing companies operating internationally the possibility to bypass the national justice system;

requests the government to investigate, in the short term, the potential social and environmental risks and the consequences of ISDS for the Netherlands and the financial risks for the Dutch government, and to inform the House about the results of this research;

requests the Government as well, to act in a European context, in order to deal with undesirable effects of the agreement,

and proceeds to the order of the day. Van Ojik
Jan Vos
Jasper van Dijk
Continue Reading →

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Negotiators determined to transfer sovereignty to companies

During a stakeholders meeting on the TTIP / TAFTA trade agreement, EU and US negotiators showed determination to transfer sovereignty to companies. On Friday 15 November, the last day of the second TTIP negotiating round, the EU commission organised a stakeholders meeting. Chief negotiators Dan Mullaney (US) and Ignacio Garcia Bercero (EU) gave a short talk and answered questions. In the stakeholders meeting many topics were discussed, from investor – state dispute settlement, the right to water, the precautionary principle, to consumer safeguards. Here is a (low quality) audio recording, it starts half a minute into the meeting. Continue Reading →

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Trade negotiations and the EU’s strategic interests

This week the EU and US hold a second round of trade negotiations. The military and economic power of states depend on their key industries. Both the EU and US want to strengthen their industries, they carefully listen to them. But a corporate agenda is not the same as a strategic interests agenda. For instance, trading away our policy space, access to medicines, our ability to fight climate change, or transferring sovereignty to corporations does not serve the EU’s strategic interests. Continue Reading →

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Will the Ombudsman rise to the occassion?

A few weeks ago I filed a complaint with the Ombudsman against the European Parliament over the secrecy of legal advice regarding ACTA. The Ombudsman replied that she didn’t want to investigate the complaint as I already got access to the documents (unofficially released versions). In a letter I ask her to reconsider the decision, as the decision seems not in line with an earlier Ombudsman decision, and, more importantly, an investigation could be of major importance. Key paragraphs:

“The secrecy surrounding international negotiations is very problematic. For instance, the secrecy surrounding ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) led to various European Parliament resolutions, two Ombudsman complaints and a Court case. Continue Reading →

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ACTA-plus damages in EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement

The EU and Singapore initialed and published the text of the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA). The text contains the much criticized retail price damages, known from the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the treaty the European Parliament rejected last year. On top of the retail price damages the judicial authorities have the authority to order the infringer to pay the right holder the infringer’s profits. This heightens the already very high damages. Retail price damages in EUSFTA

Article 11.44.2 EUSFTA: “In determining the amount of damages for infringement of intellectual property rights, a Party’s judicial authorities shall have the authority to consider, inter alia, any legitimate measure of value the right holder submits, which may include lost profits, the value of the infringed goods or services measured by the market price, or the suggested retail price.” Continue Reading →

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Complaint against European Parliament over secret legal advice

The European Parliament decided to keep the opinions of its legal service on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) secret. I just filed a complaint with the ombudsman against the parliament over this. I argue that the decisions to keep the documents secret were acts of maladministration and a violation of the human right to participate, enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights (ICCPR). ACTA is dead in Europe, this complaint is about access to documents – essential for civil society work. In 2011 two parliamentary committees asked the parliament’s legal service an opinion on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Continue Reading →

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Investor-to-state dispute settlement: a threat to democracy

At the Dutch international camping festival for hackers and makers OHM 2013 I gave a lightning talk about Investor-to-state dispute settlement. Below the text. Investor-to-state dispute settlement: a threat to democracy

Welcome everyone,

I’m Ante Wessels. I’m involved with Vrijschrift and the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure. I will give a short talk about investor-to-state dispute settlement, or ISDS. Continue Reading →

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Lightning talk about investor-to-state dispute settlement @ OHM 2013

This summer there will a another international camping festival for hackers and makers, and those with an inquisitive mind, OHM 2013. I will give a short talk about investor-to-state dispute settlement. The announcement:

Investor – state dispute settlement: a threat to democracy

Why this talk? Consumer and environmental groups identify investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) as the most important threat in upcoming EU trade agreements. Investor-to-state dispute settlement gives multinationals the possibility to sue states for special tribunals if changes in law may lead to lower profits than expected. Continue Reading →

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CEO goes to court over access to documents, needs support

Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) writes:

“Appeal filed over business lobbies’ privileged access in EU-India trade talks

Lobby watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory today appealed to the European Court of Justice a ruling from the EU’s General Court over information related to the EU-India free trade talks, which the European Commission shared with corporate lobby groups but later withheld from the public.” The FFII criticised the earlier ruling in its comment on the EU – US trade agreement, “Openness and the right to participate”. It is great to see CEO appeals the ruling. Corporate Europe Observatory has launched a donation call to cover the legal costs of the appeal. Openness is essential. Continue Reading →

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Openness and the right to participate

Monday the EU and US will start negotiations on a trade agreement. Today the FFII sent a comment to the EU Commission and the EU Parliament rapporteurs on this agreement, with a focus on openness and the right to participate. See the PDF version or below. ==========

FFII Comment on TTIP: Openness and the right to participate

Introduction

The EU and US are negotiating a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Agreement, also known as Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). This FFII comment on the agreement has a focus on openness and the right to participate. Continue Reading →

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