Disagreements and common ground

I spent part of the summer in the USA, where I had meetings with members of Congress in Washington. One of the main subjects we discussed was, of course, the ongoing negotiations for a transatlantic trade deal known as TTIP. I also met the US negotiators and the EU’s ambassador to the USA. It was an opportunity for me to explain to them why many of us in Europe have reservations about some of the ideas that are mooted for TTIP.

While I can report back that there’s much sympathy for the concerns I expressed on potential threats to public services and to the right to regulate, there is less sympathy for criticisms of the proposed investor-state dispute settlement system known as ISDS. On this, discussion is still focusing on a reformed ISDS, as suggested in the European Parliament resolution last month.

A reformed ISDS is, however, still a privileged court for international businesses (and not domestic ones), which circumvents the normal procedures and allowing businesses to take governments to task, but not vice versa. Labour MEPs are opposed to any such special privileges for businesses — and, indeed, the lack of clarity about this was the principal reason why we voted against what was otherwise a good resolution on TTIP in the European Parliament.

From my conversations, one thing is clear, though: reaching any kind of agreement on TTIP is likely to take far longer than originally expected. So there is plenty more time to argue the case. And, of course, there will be no TTIP at all unless it’s ratified by the US Congress and by the European Parliament.

I also saw President Obama just before his public comments urging Britain to remain part of Europe. It seems that the not-inconsiderable efforts of Britain’s right-wing eurosceptics to get support for their cause in the USA seem to have backfired, finding traction only in some of the more right-wing parts of the Republican party, and nowhere beyond that.

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