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  • Fight to defend environment and consumer protection slows EU-US trade talks

    The EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht has ordered a public consultation on a legal clause in the emerging EU-US trade agreement that campaigners say could undermine environmental and consumer protection. The legal provision, known as ‘investor-state dispute settlement’, would give companies the right to take legal action against governments if they feel their investment potential or profits are being hindered by regulatory or policy changes at national level. What’s more, such disputes would be judged by special panels made up of people acceptable to business interests, and bypass national laws.

    Campaigners say this would lead to the erosion of laws that deliver public benefits, notably those that protect consumers’ and workers’ rights and the environment. The announcement of a consultation will slow down progress towards an EU-US deal, or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership as it is being called. European and American car makers are particularly keen to see the trade deal happen, as they could expect some cost savings if vehicle safety tests and standards were recognised in both countries. But with France and Germany both indicating they would not support an ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ clause, some commentators say the deal will only happen if this provision is dropped.