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Negotiations on the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) began in July 2013, but last January EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht halted talks on the ISDS mechanism, which could allow businesses to bypass national courts and sue governments directly, in special arbitration panels, often over legislation designed to deliver public benefits.
There was ‘very substantial interest’ in the public consultation on ISDS, launched in March, the Commission said. More than 99% of the 149,399 replies were by individuals. It is thought many had participated in collective actions organised by civil society groups.
Preliminary findings show 35% of responses came from the UK, while Austria (23%) and Germany (22%) were also major contributors. Some 569 organisations gave their opinion on ISDS, including 180 non-government organisations and 189 industry organisations.
The Commission said it would decide on its next course of action after analysing the responses. That is unlikely to be completed before November, it added.
Last month saw the sixth round of negotiations in Brussels. T&E, a member of the Commission’s TTIP advisory group, and other civil society organisations have expressed strong opposition to ISDS over concerns it would undermine the rule of law, make taxpayers pay for corporate risk, and create a ‘fright to regulate’ where governments do not legislate out of fear of being sued.
T&E director Jos Dings said: ‘This consultation will show the depth of opposition of EU civil society to ISDS. The Commission must fully disclose all public contributions. Europeans deserve to know what the public thinks about investor protection rules.’
US investment in the EU is currently three times that in all of Asia. Also, 19 out of 28 member states, or 93% of Europe’s economy, do currently not offer ISDS protection to US investors. All nine known claims in EU-US trade relations to date were led by US investors.
Pieter de Pous, EEB EU policy director and also a member of the TTIP advisory group, said: ‘An increasing number of countries around the world are turning away from ISDS, for good reasons. Now is the time for Europe to follow suit and take ISDS out of TTIP.’