Voted in by 436 votes in favour to 241 against at a plenary session in Brussels yesterday, MEPs have adopted a common position on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
The recommendations called for a more transparent process, robust workers’ rights and protection for personal data and public services.
MEPs said they advocated cutting red tape where there was mutual recognition of equivalent standards - but that there would be no agreement in areas where US standards were very different, such as GMOs, the use of hormones for cattle, cloning or endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
The EU’s geographical indications system must also be strongly protected, they said.
‘ISDS is dead’ – but what will replace it?
The report proposed a replacement to the ISDS clause – the most contentious clause of TTIP which allows investors to take governments to international arbitration tribunals rather than to domestic courts. It called for publically appointed, independent professional judges to hear cases in transparent public hearings, and was voted in with 447 votes in favour and 229 against with 30 abstentions.
Industry trade group FoodDrinkEurope told FoodNavigator that it was in favour of TTIP and had supported the agreement since the beginning of the negotiations, but had not adopted a specific position on the ISDS clause or its proposed replacement.
NGO Greenpeace called the proposed replacement "a classic example of toxic Euro-fudge that undermined democracy".
Greenpeace trade expert Jürgen Knirsch said: “Nothing can justify the creation of a privileged and separate legal system for the defence of private commercial interests. Foreign investors should enjoy the same access to justice as any person or company seeking to protect its rights and interests before a national or EU court of law.”
Director general of the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) Monique Goyens said that public opposition to ISDS was growing and would not be appeased with sketchy compromises.
“The EU and the US should now think twice about whether including extrajudicial tribunals for foreign investors is worth putting the entire TTIP at risk,” she said.
But even author of the report, MEP Bern Lange, said it would not appease its opponents: "The proposal is a step in the right direction but it still does not go far enough to restore public confidence on the issue.”
Tim Bennett, CEO of the Trans-Atlantic Business Council (TABC), said that the to-and-fro negotiations meant a healthy trading system.
“Disagreements and concerns arise during the conduct of any major trade negotiation, but this particular agreement is critical at this point in history not just for the EU and U.S., but also as a positive signal to the global trading system."
EU and US negotiators will meet for the tenth round of talks on 13-17 July 2015 in Brussels. If a deal is reached it will then need the backing of the EU Parliament and EU Council before coming into force.
The full report of recommendations can be read here.