How is big business using the EU's trade and investment agreements to sideline people, planet and democracy?
A small club of international law firms, arbitrators and financial speculators are fuelling lawsuits by foreign investors against states that cost taxpayers billions of dollars and prevent legislation in the public interest. Emblematic cases include tobacco giant Philip Morris suing Uruguay and Australia over health warnings on cigarette packets, and Swedish energy multinational Vattenfall seeking $3.7bn from Germany following that country’s decision to phase-out nuclear energy.
“The whole theory is to take the legal system and turn it into a stock market.” Quote from John H. Beisner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
Across the world, corporate lawyers have taken full advantage of an unjust investment regime to make multinationals sue sovereign governments for millions of Euros. At great personal financial gain, they have actively pursued cases, exploited loopholes and created an explosion in the number and costs of dispute settlement cases - with devastating social, environmental and budgetary impacts for sovereign states and ordinary people. A new briefing paper by CEO and TNI shines a light on their vested interests.
Irish MEP Paul Murphy of the European United Left Group (GUE) is a member of the Committee on International Trade (INTA), one of the committees, which commented on the EU’s latest Raw Materials Initiative. He shared his reflections on the initiative with Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), described what kind of raw materials policy is needed and talked about the role of corporate lobbying in the European Parliament.
On 30 June, the European Parliament’s industry, energy and research committee (ITRE) is due to vote on the EU’s Raw Materials Initiative, establishing guidelines for Europe's future policy on natural resource use. The Parliament’s report could effectively give the green light to mining in protected European nature reserves as well as a resource grab in Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Arctic.
Madi Sharma, a member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), which was set up to advise the EU institutions, described the talks as “wrong and non-transparent”. Sharma, who is the EESC's lead person on a report looking at the FTA, is also a businesswoman, who trades with India. She presented her "preliminary considerations" for the report in a meeting in Brussels on 11 April.
Corporate lobbying triggered an angry debate in the European Parliament’s committee on international trade (INTA) on 13 April, following Carl Schlyter MEP's interview with Corporate Europe Observatory. Talking about his role as rapporteur for the European Parliament on the future of EU member states' bilateral investment treaties, Schlyter had said he had never seen such an extreme example of MEPs focusing solely on big business interests. His comments were heavily criticised by MEPs from the European People's Party (EPP) who defended the importance of listening to industry lobbyists.
Next week, MEPs are due to vote on a report from the Parliament’s international trade committee (INTA) about Europe’s international investment policy – giving guidelines for the rights of foreign investors under future EU trade deals. The vote follows fierce attempts by law firms, industry and member states to enshrine the right of foreign investors to challenge national laws that affect their profits. As a result, European member states could soon find domestic laws challenged by foreign companies – and politicians will have no powers to intervene.
Swedish MEP Carl Schlyter (Green) has told Corporate Europe Observatory that lobbyism is the main reason why the EU makes bad policies. Interviewed about his role as rapporteur for the European Parliament on the future of EU member states' bilateral investment treaties, he spoke about the corporate counter attack on his report, MEPs tabling amendments for industry and governments and about why he turned down requests for meetings with corporate lobbyists.
Two weeks ago, Corporate Europe Observatory and India FDI Watch published a report that revealed how the negotiations for a free trade agreement between the EU and India had been hijacked by business interests. The EU Commission has responded to the report by rejecting the allegations, claiming that there was no business bias in the trade talks.
A new joint report from Corporate Europe Observatory and India FDI Watch reveals how, in the negotiations for a trade deal between the EU and India, the EU Commission and the Indian government have handed the agenda over to corporate lobby groups. This big-business-first agenda will put at risk the livelihoods of millions of small farmers, street traders and patients. The report shows how negotiators on both sides have entered into a symbiotic working relationship with big corporations and their lobby groups.
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