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.

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.

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.

FFII condemns investor-to-state arbitration in trade talks with US

Brussels, 14 June 2013 — The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) condemns the inclusion of investor-to-state dispute settlement in the mandate for trade talks with the United States. 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. This threatens democracy, the public interest and copyright and patent law reform, according to the FFII. Today the EU Council is expected to grant the Commission a mandate to open trade negotiations with the United States. During the discussions on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), civil society groups warned that ACTA would make it impossible to reform dysfunctional aspects of copyright and patent law.

EU Court allows more access to documents for companies than for citizens

Corporate Europe Observatory writes (CEO):

“Court ruling fails to stop business lobbies’ privileged access in EU-India trade talks

In a ruling delivered today following a lawsuit by lobby watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory, the EU’s General Court in Luxembourg concludes that the European Commission did not violate EU rules when withholding information about the EU-India free trade talks from the public, even though it had already shared the information with corporate lobby groups. Corporate Europe Observatory warns that this decision risks deepening the secrecy around EU trade negotiations and legitimises the Commission’s practice of granting corporate lobby groups privileged access to its policy-making, at the expense of the wider public interest.” See CEO’s press release and the ruling. The Court notes that “an advisory committee was created to assist the Commission in its task and, more specifically, to assist it in the identification of barriers to market access in the third State concerned and of measures capable of eliminating those barriers.” The Court ruled that by sending documents to experts, including to trade associations with many members, the documents did not enter into the public domain.

Positions on investor-to-state dispute settlement

Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant today opens with an article on investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), stating that ISDS can have far-reaching effects on EU environmental laws. De Volkskrant writes it has a leaked draft of the EU – Canada trade agreement. Jan Kleinheisterkamp of the London School of Economics says the concerns about ISDS are not unrealistic. He points to the Vattenfall – Germany case, involving a 3.7 billion euro claim against Germany. Judith Merkies, MEP, S&D, says ISDS compromises the member states sovereignty.

Vrijschrift Foundation rejects EU – US trade mandate

The EU draft mandate for trade negotiations with the United States contains serious flaws and should rejected, according to the Vrijschrift Foundation. Vrijschrift writes this in a letter to the Chairman of the Dutch House Committee for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Mr de Roon. The EU Member States are expected to grant the European Commission a mandate for trade negotiations with the United States in June. On Thursday, June 6th, the Dutch House Committee for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation will formulate its opinion. Openness

Vrijschrift notes that the draft mandate allows the European Commission to refuse citizens, civil society organizations, EU member states governments and national parliaments access to draft texts.

European Parliament votes for fake openness in TTIP / TAFTA

(Updated) The European Parliament adopted a resolution on EU trade and investment negotiations with the United States of America. All amendments to the resolution were rejected, and with this all amendments were rejected that asked for real openness, or asked for leaving investor to state dispute settlement out, or would have made an improvement on the paragraph on intellectual property rights. This is a bad development. The United States informs companies and business associations. The Commission gives more information to companies and business associations than to citizens.