An EU-US trade deal must open up US market access for EU firms, but must not undermine EU standards, say MEPs in recommendations, voted Wednesday, to EU trade negotiators. To settle trade-related investor-state disputes, a new justice system, run by publicly-appointed judges and subject to scrutiny and transparency rules, should replace private arbitration under the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system, they add.
Parliament approved its recommendations to European Commission Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiators by 436 votes to 241, with 32 abstentions.
"Unprecedented globalization is under way and our citizens and businesses are right in the middle of it. As parliamentarians, it is our democratic duty to shape this process. If it is to work for the benefit of the people, then it cannot be left in the hands of the negotiators alone. That is why we have drafted this resolution and spelt out the principles for the kind of trade agreement we want the Commission to conclude", said rapporteur Bernd Lange (S&D, DE).
"We demand a more transparent process, robust workers' rights and protection for personal data and public services. We insist that the right of lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic to legislate must not be undermined by private arbitration courts or other bodies", he continued, concluding that "we have given clear guidance for the Commission on what kind of deal we want. And if, at the end of the day, the agreement is bad, we will reject it. If it's good, we will vote in favour".
New system to resolve investor-state disputes
The compromise wording on investor-state dispute resolution tools, hammered out by political groups in long and tense negotiations and inserted in the text with 447votes in favour, 229 against and 30 abstentions, calls for a new justice system to replace ”investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) provisions, which rely upon private arbitration and are common in trade deals.
This system should be “subject to democratic principles and scrutiny”, in which cases are handled “in a transparent manner”, by “publicly appointed, independent professional judges” and “in public hearings”. It should include “an appellate mechanism”, respect the jurisdiction of EU and member state courts and ensure that private interests “cannot undermine public policy objectives”, says the text.
Go on with TTIP talks to get a good deal
MEPs favour continuing talks but reiterate that they need to deliver an “ambitious” and “balanced” deal, which increases market access for goods and services and also access to public procurement markets, with benefits shared across EU member states, leading to an “effective, pro-competitive economic environment” and precluding non-tariff trade barriers.
A deal should remove US restrictions on foreign ownership of transport services and airlines, improve EU access to US telecommunications markets and achieve a “significant opening” of the US public procurement market at all levels of government, says the text.
At the same time, high levels of protection for EU consumer data, health and safety must be guaranteed, and social, fiscal and environmental dumping must be prevented, they add.
MEPs also stress that public services must be excluded from the scope of the deal, the EU’s geographical indications system must be strongly protected, and there should be special treatment for sensitive agricultural and industrial products.
MEPs advocate cutting trade red tape through “mutual recognition of equivalent standards”, but nonetheless stress that there can be "no agreement" in areas where the US standards are “very different”, e.g. for authorising chemicals, GMOs, use of hormones in the bovine sector, cloning or endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
The 10th round of the EU-US trade negotiations on the TTIP is scheduled for 13-17 July 2015 in Brussels.
A TTIP deal, once drawn up by EU and US negotiators, would need the backing of the European Parliament and the EU Council to enter into force.