Speaking to the EU’s international trade committee yesterday, trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström outlined four preliminary ideas, which focused entirely on the controversial investor principle clause (ISDS).
The amendments were drafted in an attempt to address concerns voiced in a 2014 public consultation where a vast majority of individual responses rejected either TTIP in its entirety or specifically ISDS.
Several aspects of TTIP have attracted criticisms but Malmström acknowledged that the investor clause had caused most concern. Yet she added that the outcry was "in some ways surprising" and “the reality was less dramatic than the headlines”.
The proposed amendments
1.The concern: ISDS would allow companies to attack regulation that goes against their corporate interests. Additionally, the mere possibility of being brought before an ISDS tribunal could deter national policymakers in legislating freely.
The proposal: The TTIP would include an article stipulating that governments are free to pursue public policy objectives. Companies would be made aware that the legal regime in which they invest may change.
2.The concern: the ISDS system could create conflicts of interest because tribunal arbitrators are also lawyers who might expect to get business from investors in future.
The proposal: Governments would be allowed to nominate a list of trustworthy arbitrators. These must be eligible to be judges in their national court
3.The concern: ISDS has no appeals tribunal.
The proposal: An appeals body with permanent members would be created.
4.The concern: Investors could use IDSD tribunals to overrule the decisions of national courts
The proposal: Investors could choose to follow up a case either in a national court or ISDS tribunal. They would not be able to change once the case has opened.
Despite the fact that the original terms of ISDS were up for review, a European Commission spokesperson said that much of the initial controversy had been due to misunderstanding them.
Speaking to FoodNavigator, the spokeperson said: “The most common misconception about investment protection in TTIP is that the companies could sue governments for lost profit. This is not the case. The investor-to-state dispute settlement system designed by the EU can be used in a very limited number of cases which are mainly common sense.
“EU governments have 1,400 investment agreements which include ISDS in place and they do regulate freely every single day. With TTIP - this will remain the same."
Health will not be compromised
The Commission also rebuked the idea that food safety standards would be lowered to meet the US’s standards.
“The precautionary principle is enshrined in the EU treaties and we will not change that via TTIP. Trade negotiations are not about compromising the health of our consumers for commercial gain.
"Basic legislation, like those relating to GMOs, ensuring a high level of protection of human life and health, animal health and welfare, environment and consumer interests will not be part of the negotiations.
“(…) Like with any regulation, whatever the EU decides to do will also have to be respected by all our trading partners and no trade agreement will change that.”
In her speech to MEPs, Malmström said she believed part of the reason for the outcry was that it was the European Union - and not national governments - who was debating international investment policy.
Thilo Bode also accused the trade negotiations of being shrouded in secrecy despite EU attempts to improve transparency. "The issue is still not being debated honestly; the advantages and disadvantages of TTIP are falsely presented," he said.
Foodwatch was contacted to comment on the proposed amendments but did not reply in time for publication.