France says investor-state provision not needed in TTIP

Agence Europe reports, "France believes that a state to state dispute settlement mechanism is enough under the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP). ...France 'is not in favour' of including in the agreement a settlement mechanism for disputes between the investor and state, as (French minister for trade Nicole) Bricq believes that a state to state dispute mechanism 'is enough'. France is not alone on this issue - Germany is also 'very reluctant', Bricq says."
Photo: French trade minister Nicole Bricq. Photo from SIPA.

The news report also says, "Bricq welcomed the (European) Commission's initiatives to ensure more transparency in the negotiations via a consultative experts' group at the European level and the launch of a public consultation on the protection of investments."

The British newspaper The Independent reported in mid-January about similar concerns in the United Kingdom.

"Britain's freedom to tackle climate change, protect consumers or guarantee a publicly run NHS (National Health Service) could be jeopardised by a trade deal being negotiated between Europe and the US (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP), MPs and pressure groups have warned. ...An Early Day Motion in Parliament, signed by MPs from all parties, calls for the trade talks to be frozen until the issue is resolved."

The examples cited in that article include:
"In 2011 Philip Morris sued the Australian government for restricting logos, branding, colours and promotional text on tobacco packets. The company claims the move breaches Australia's bilateral investment treaty with Hong Kong. The case is yet to be resolved."
"Canada, which is being sued by US drugs firm Eli Lilly for revoking patents on drugs on the grounds that their benefits may have been overstated."
"The Slovak Republic was forced to pay $22m (£13.4m) damages after the government reversed the liberalisation of its health-insurance market."
"These clauses could thwart attempts by a future government to bring our health service back towards public ownership."
"ISDS (investor-state dispute settlement) provisions could be used to prevent the EU from restricting imports of US diesel made from polluting tar sands in Canada."

There is also an investor-state dispute settlement provision in the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Investor-state scenarios that could be faced in Europe under CETA include:

If England opted to stop paying higher water rates and brought its privatized water services back into the public realm. Canadian investors could challenge that. The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan owns 27 per cent of Northumbrian Water Group Plc (which sells its water services to about 4.4 million 'customers' in England), and the Canada Pension Plan owns one-third of Anglian Water Services (which sells water services to approximately six million people in England). Both are highly profitable enterprises for these Canadian pension funds.
If other European countries - beyond France, Bulgaria and Cantabria in northern Spain - decided to ban fracking. This past June, the Guardian reported, "A leading UK shale gas explorer (iGas) has said estimates of its resources in north-west England (in Cheshire) are considerably higher than previously thought and could meet gas consumption in Britain for decades." The Globe and Mail has noted, "IGas, which is 20 per cent owned by Calgary-based Nexen Inc., has been drilling in the Bowland basin, a large rock formation that stretches across much of England."
If Romania were to pass a strict law in the coming years that prohibited the environmentally-destructive Rosia Montana mine from proceeding. Whitehorse-based, Toronto Stock Exchange-listed Gabriel Resources Ltd. has already threatened the Romanian government with 'litigation for multiple breaches of international investment treaties' for up to $4-billion if it doesn't approve the controversial gold mine.
A spokesperson from the Greek opposition party SYRIZA has stated they "would cancel the gold mine contract if it comes to power." This is in reference to the highly controversial and environmentally-destructive Skouries mine in northern Greece being pursued by Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold. If SYRIZA were to come to power (an election is expected this year or next), Eldorado Gold with CETA in their back pocket could threaten to sue for lost profits.
Corporate Europe Observatory has pointed out that, "In May 2013, Slovak and Cypriot investors sued Greece for the 2012 debt swap which Athens had to negotiate with its creditors to get bailout money from the EU and the International Monetary Fund." This adds misery to misery, but Canadian investors in Greece might see an opportunity for themselves with this example.

The Council of Canadians is working with its allies in Europe to link European concerns about investor-state in TTIP to similar provisions in CETA. We are also highlighting that given most major US corporations have corporate offices in Canada, these corporations could still likely use the investor-state mechanism in CETA even if it were to be removed from TTIP. Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew has also stated, "A public consultation and debate is needed in Canada on these extreme investment protections like the Commission has agreed to organize in Europe. The trade committee in Parliament should be asked to put its CETA discussions on hold, or focus those talks on the problematic and highly controversial investment chapter."

In terms of upcoming dates:
February 28 - European trade ministers will be briefed by the European Commission at a meeting in Athens.
March 10-14 - the fourth round of TTIP talks will take place in Brussels
April 22 - expected conclusion date for the three month review of the investor-state provision in TTIP
May 22-25 - elections to the 736-seat European Parliament will take place

Further reading
European Union halts TTIP investor-state talks with the United States
Canada should mirror EU consultations on investor "rights" chapter in transatlantic trade deals
French, British politicians attack investor "rights" in transatlantic trade deals
All-party motion in UK expresses concern about investor-state provisions

Brent Patterson's blog

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