Economics for the Earth Blog

Companies must not get more rights than people in EU-U.S. trade deal

Posted Mar. 11, 2014 / Posted by: Kate Colwell

WASHINGTON, D.C.  A new round of talks between the EU and U.S. on a transatlantic trade agreement opens today in Brussels amid growing public concern and opposition.

Public resistance is particularly focused on a controversial clause which could give foreign companies the right to sue governments. Friends of the Earth Europe is calling for the harmful and undemocratic ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ mechanism to be excluded from any deal. 

In reaction to strong criticism the European Commission has announced that it will start a public consultation on this mechanism. 

A new report published last week (March 6) shows how the ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ mechanism would be likely to lead to the expansion of fracking. It would be much harder for countries to ban or impose strong regulations on fracking for shale gas and other unconventional fossil fuels, for fear of having to pay hundreds of millions in compensation.

Commenting at the opening of this week’s talks Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “Public scrutiny of these negotiations and the dangers they pose is rightly growing. We are monitoring this secretive process as best we can and will not stand for any deal which does not build a better future or gives give corporations more rights than citizens. The excessive rights for foreign investors being proposed are a direct attack on democracy and must be rejected.”

“The people of Europe are rightly concerned about the threat posed by the investment chapter of the EU-U.S. trade deal,” said Erich Pica, President of Friends of the Earth – United States. “It could not only undermine years of hard-won environmental protections, but hamper the ability of governments to defend their citizens against the damage that would be caused by fracking and other dirty fossil fuel activities.”

Friends of the Earth Europe is calling for increased transparency in the talks and for the negotiating texts to be made public. It is calling for the EU-U.S. trade deal to specifically exclude:

  • any form of investor-to-State dispute settlement mechanism
  • sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures – i.e. any areas dealing with food safety, animal or plant health
  • any attempt to compromise democracy, safety, and key pillars of EU regulations – such as the polluter-pays and the precautionary principles
  • any attempt to de-regulate polluting industries, harmonise safety or product standards downwards, and limit future legislation to protect people or the environment.

* * *

Contact:
Friends of the Earth Europe spokespeople are available for comment throughout the trade round. Please contact:

Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe, magda.stoczkiewicz@foeeurope.org, +32 (0)4 7586 7637
For general comments. 

Michelle Chan, economic policy program director, Friends of the Earth U.S., mchan@foe.org, +011 1 510-900-3141 
For environmental economics and investments comments.

Paul de Clerck, economic justice coordinator, Friends of the Earth Europe, paul@milieudefensie.nl, +32 (0) 4 9438 0959
For comments on fracking, oil and gas, and investor rights.

Natacha Cingotti, corporate and transparency campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe, natacha.cingotti@foeeurope.org, +32 (0)4 9294 8898
For transparency and investor rights comments.

Mute Schimpf, food campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe, mute.schimpf@foeeurope.org, +32 (0)4 7570 3475
For the threat to food and agriculture, and GMO-related comments.

Invitation:
UNTANGLING THE TRADE TALKS: What are the likely consequences of an EU-US trade deal for our food and environment?
Thursday March 13, 13:30 – 18:00 at the Press Club Brussels, Rue Froissart 95
Session 1: 13:30 – 15:30: What are likely impacts of TTIP for food and farming?
Organised by Friends of the Earth Europe and Institute for Agriculture Trade Policy
Session 2: 16:00 – 18:00: The controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism and its risks for our environment
Organised by Friends of the Earth Europe, Seattle to Brussels Network, Transnational Institute
To register, please visit: http://www.amiando.com/UntanglingTradeTalks.html
See the full programme at: http://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/untangling-the-trade-talks_invite.pdf

Resources:
‘NO FRACKING WAY: How the EU-US trade deal risks expanding fracking in Europe and the US’ report: http://www.foeeurope.org/no-fracking-way

‘The risks of including investor-to-state dispute settlement in transatlantic trade talks’ briefing: http://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/foee_factsheet_isds_oct13.pdf

‘How fair and sustainable food and farming could be permanently damaged by a transatlantic trade deal’ briefing: http://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/foee_iatp_factsheet_ttip_food_oct13.pdf

‘TRADING AWAY OUR FUTURE? The threat to Europe’s democracy and environmental, health, and social safeguards of TTIP’ briefing: http://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/foee_briefing_ttip_oct13.pdf

More information about Friends of the Earth Europe's work on the EU-US trade deal: http://www.foeeurope.org/EU-US-trade-deal

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