Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

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Campaigners slam Commission’s mock consultation on investor rights in EU-US trade deal

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE SEATTLE TO BRUSSELS NETWORK

Brussels/Amsterdam, 27 March 2014 - Campaigners from the Seattle to Brussels Network [1] have criticised the European Commission’s consultation on the investor rights in the EU-US trade deal as a mock consultation aimed at selling its pro-industry agenda, rather than an honest attempt to have a much-needed open debate on the issue. The public consultation was launched earlier today.

Roos van Os of the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), a member of the Seattle to Brussels Network, said: "Those who reject the undemocratic and dangerous investor-state dispute settlement system will have no opportunity in this consultation to voice their opposition because the Commission’s biased questions provide no option for that. The Commission should make itself available for a real debate, not a cowardly advertising campaign for its corporate agenda.

In meetings with the Commission, members of its civil society advisory group on the EU-US trade deal had stressed the need for the consultation to be intelligible for non-experts and for there to be balanced questions. But the Commission’s questionnaire only contains questions about its agenda for minor reforms to salvage the controversial investor-state dispute settlement system, in a 40-page legalistic text which will be difficult for members of the public to understand.

Marc Maes of the Belgian development organisation 11.11.11, also member of the Seattle to Brussels Network, said: "The Commission’s so-called reform agenda does nothing to address the basic flaws of the investor-state dispute settlement system. Foreign companies will continue to have greater rights than domestic firms and citizens. And international tribunals consisting of three for-profit lawyers will continue to decide over what policies are right or wrong, disregarding domestic laws, courts and democracy."

Analyses of leaked investment texts from the EU-Canada trade negotiations indicate that the EU’s approach to investment protection does very little to protect the right to regulate (in fact it sometimes does the exact opposite) and it will establish an arbitration system that is far inferior to domestic legal systems in the EU and North America [2].

Pia Eberhardt, trade campaigner with Corporate Europe Observatory, another member of the Seattle to Brussels Network said: “The investor-state arbitration system cannot be tamed. Profit-greedy law firms and their corporate clients will always find a way to attack countries for actions that threaten their profits. The corporate super-rights should be abolished – and people in Europe should not miss this crucial opportunity to tell the Commission to do so.”

To enhance public scrutiny and democratic debate about the controversial investor rights in EU trade agreements, members of the Seattle to Brussels Network have set up a website (http://eu-secretdeals.info/) to publish leaked negotiating texts and critical analyses of these texts.

The network is also inviting civil society organisations and members of the public to participate in ongoing online actions against the dangerous corporate rights in EU trade deals, such as by SumOfUs and the European Attac network.

Notes:

[1] The Seattle to Brussels Network (S2B) includes development, environmental, human rights,women’s and farmers’ organisations, trade unions and social movements working together for a truly sustainable, just and democratic trade policy in Europe. www.s2bnetwork.org

[2] See, for example: IISD (2014): A Response to the European Commission’s December 2013 Document “Investment Provisions in the EU-Canada Free Trade Agreement (CETA)”, http://www.iisd.org/pdf/2014/reponse_eu_ceta.pdf; Seattle to Brussel Network (2014): Investment in CETA – A response to a lobby document by DG Trade, http://eu-secretdeals.info/upload/2014/03/S2B-Marc-Maes-CETA-Investment_....

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