TTIP – a response from Richard Howitt MEP (Labour)

Richard Howitt MEP.

Thank you for contacting me regarding TTIP, and for getting involved in this important campaign. Let me reassure you that, as a Labour MEP, I am fully opposed to ISDS and will vote accordingly on 10 June.

The votes on Wednesday in the European Parliament on TTIP aim at giving a clear view from the European Parliament to EU negotiators on what would or would not be acceptable to MEPs in the final TTIP deal. The vote will be a guide to them as they negotiate TTIP over the coming years.

This is not a vote for or against TTIP itself. Only once the final text is presented to the European Parliament will MEPs have the chance to support or oppose the deal. Until this happens – and it will probably take years before negotiations are concluded – there is no TTIP to vote for or against. MEPs have no formal powers while trade negotiations are ongoing: we can only vote yes or no to the entire deal once negotiations are concluded. Crucially, we cannot stop negotiations either. So we will judge the TTIP by its merits, and in the meantime try to influence the negotiations so that all of our concerns are properly addressed.

Last week Labour MEPs supported a report by the trade committee, which is the text that will be put to vote in the European Parliament on 10 June. The text includes key protections for the NHS and public services and binding labour and environmental safeguards. It also clearly states that we will not accept any lowering of our food standards.

Importantly, it states that we trust national courts in the case of investor protection disputes, as opposed to special ISDS tribunals. The report doesn’t go far enough on ISDS, but it is an important step in the right direction. We will now try to strengthen the reports provisions against ISDS, to make it absolutely clear that the European Parliament refuses to have it in TTIP.

Labour MEPs have therefore tabled amendments that explicitly rule out ISDS from any trade deal with the US. The amendments read as follows (initalics):

Amendment 27

“…to ensure that foreign investors are treated in a non-discriminatory fashion and have a fair opportunity to seek and achieve redress of grievances, while benefiting from no greater rights than domestic investors; to oppose the inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in TTIP, as other options to enforce investment protection are available, such as domestic remedies…

Amendment 115

“… to propose a permanent solution for resolving disputes between investors and states – without the use of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) private arbitration – which is subject to democratic principles and scrutiny…”

For more information on TTIP, ISDS and what we are trying to achieve, see:

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/05/peoples-concerns-over-ttip-must-be-heard

http://labourlist.org/2015/06/how-do-you-build-a-majority-against-secret-tribunals-for-multinationals-in-the-european-parliament/

http://leftfootforward.org/2015/06/we-must-engage-with-ttip-or-else-risk-being-shut-out/

Trade is neither bad nor good, but there is good trade and bad trade. Labour is firmly committed to changing the rules of global trade, for the benefit of the people and the planet. We stand for fair trade rather than free trade. We want to put an end to social dumping, protect jobs and wages at home while promoting human rights abroad and rebalance north-south relations. To do that, we must seize every opportunity we have to set a new agenda. TTIP represents such an opportunity, and that s why Labour is not ruling it out at this stage. If we fail to get the agreement that we want, we can always veto the deal in the end. But there would be no excuse for not trying. On Wednesday, together with my Labour colleagues, I will vote to try to reset the TTIP agenda.

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns, if I can be of further assistance please let me know

Yours,

Richard Howitt MEP

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