12/07/2014 - Protestors against the EU-US trade deal (TTIP - Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) outside the Houses of Parliament march to Europe House, the London Headquarters of the European Commission and the European Parliament, in Smith Square, London [Image: Huffington Post].

12/07/2014 – Protestors against the EU-US trade deal (TTIP – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) outside the Houses of Parliament march to Europe House, the London Headquarters of the European Commission and the European Parliament, in Smith Square, London [Image: Huffington Post].

The people have delivered their verdict on the hugely controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP): They don’t want it in its current form. In response, the European Commission has changed nothing; negotiations are continuing.

So what was the point of all that, then?

It is to be hoped that you are aware of the TTIP and the issues surrounding it – exploitation, putting inferior (and possibly dangerous) goods on the market, and the infamous Investor-State Dispute Settlement procedure that would allow corporations to overrule national legislation if they believe it harms their ability to make a profit. If not, read some Vox Political articles on the subject, starting here.

The negotiations between the EU and the United States were initially held in secret, which says about as much about them as you really need to know. After the whistle was blown on them, they have attracted a huge amount of attention, not just in Europe and Stateside but globally, with much of the attention focused on ISDS and its knock-on effects.

The European Commission therefore launched a consultation on the ISDS plan, presumably in a bid to gain some kind of legitimacy for the project as a whole.

As an exercise in public participation, the consultation has been a roaring success, with 150,000 responses. As an exercise in legitimising TTIP and ISDS, it has been a disaster.

The full report states: “The collective submissions reflect a widespread opposition to Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) in TTIP or in general. There is also quite a majority of replies opposing TTIP in general.

“In these submissions, the ISDS mechanism is perceived as a threat to democracy and public finance or to public policies. It is also considered as unnecessary between the EU and the US, in view of the perceived strength of the respective judicial systems. Such views are largely echoed by most of the trade unions, a large majority of NGOs [non-government organisations], Government institutions and many respondents in the “other organisations” category, including consumer organisations. Many among the collective submissions express specific concerns about governments being sued by corporations for high amounts of money which in their view create a “chilling effect” on the right to regulate. In addition, certain replies from trade unions express a generic mistrust with regard to the independence and impartiality of the arbitrators or are concerned that ISDS may create a possibility for investors to circumvent domestic courts, laws or regulations.”

The only supporters were large corporations – what a surprise! Even smaller businesses were critical.

What conclusions does the Commission draw from this consultation, then?

“The publication of the report on the consultation is only a first step. Further discussions with the other EU institutions and stakeholders will be necessary. However, the consultation has already allowed the identification of four areas where further improvements should be explored:

  • the protection of the right to regulate;
  • the supervision and functioning of arbitral tribunals;
  • the relationship between ISDS arbitration and domestic remedies;
  • the review of ISDS decisions for legal correctness through an appellate mechanism.

“Moreover, in the mandate given to the Commission unanimously, it was made clear that investment protection and ISDS should form part of the agreement concluded with the US, provided a number of conditions, as set out in the negotiating directives adopted by the Council, are met.

“It follows therefore that a decision on whether or not to include ISDS is to be taken during the final phase of the negotiations.

“In addition, as was stated by President Juncker in the European Parliament on 22 October 2014, a final decision on whether ISDS will or will not be included in TTIP will be taken in agreement with First Vice-President Timmermans, who shall ensure that ISDS fully complies with the rule of law, the principle of equality before the law, and the principle of transparency.”

No! That’s not what anybody wants at all! They want this plan scrapped!

Yet the Commission is pressing ahead.

Is this democracy?

The only positive aspect to this charade is the fact that all negotiations are currently suspended.

According to the Commission: “In the first quarter of 2015, the Commission intends to further consult EU stakeholders, EU Member States and the European Parliament on the above-mentioned core issues, as part of a wider debate on the approach to investment protection and ISDS in TTIP, with a view to developing concrete proposals for the TTIP negotiations.

“Until then it should be recalled that no negotiations are currently taking place on this issue.”

Today the TTIP was due to be debated in the House of Commons. The UK provided the most submissions to the consultation – at 52,000+, more than a third of them – so it will be fascinating to see whether your MP puts forward the opinion of the public.

What do you think are the chances of that happening?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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