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If you want to know why TTIP would be a nightmare, look what just happened in Canada

Crossposted from Global Justice Now

If anyone tries to convince you that TTIP is no threat to a government’s ability to protect its people, just point them to Canada. Last week, Canada’s government was successfully sued for daring to turn down a large mining quarry which threatened to cause environmental damage in Nova Scotia.

It is the latest in a long line of cases which have been brought against Canada, for attempting to introduce environmental protection, under the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). And these cases have been brought about under exactly the same mechanism – known as ISDS (Investor State Dispute Settlement) – which is at the centre of the TTIP deal.

ISDS is essentially a corporate court system – allowing foreign corporations to sue governments in secret tribunals, overseen by corporate lawyers, with no right of appeal. Even losing can cost a country a small fortune.

The most recent ruling focuses on Canada’s decision, following an environmental review, to block a 152-hectare basalt quarry in Nova Scotia, which happens to be a key breeding area for several endangered species, including rare whales. US corporation Bilcon wanted to open the quarry and argued that it had put time and money into the development. The environmental review, however, found that the project clashed with “community core values”.

The company argued that the Canadian government shouldn’t even have resorted to an environmental review and is now seeking $300 million in compensation.

Two aspects of this case prove what critics have always said about these corporate courts. First, the case didn’t relate to a breach of contract or to discrimination in favour of a domestic company. It simply related to a regulation which a foreign corporation didn’t like.

Second, the case is a challenge to Canada’s ability to make decisions based on environmental protection, as pointed out by the dissenting voice in this tribunal. Donald McRae warned: “a chill will be imposed on environmental review panels which will be concerned not to give too much weight to socio-economic considerations or other considerations of the human environment in case the result is a claim for damages under NAFTA”. He continued the ruling “will be seen as a remarkable step backwards in environmental protection” and a “significant intrusion into domestic jurisdiction.”

Canada has been sued for environmental protection regulations again and again. Previous cases include Canada being taken to task for attempting to ban the import of toxic waste and for trying to prohibit dangerous chemical MMT from petrol. In the latter case, Canada reversed its ban.

Only days before the Bilcon ruling, Canada had an award made against it for a regulation which required oil giant Exxon Mobil to invest some of its profits from offshore drilling in the local economy. It has been suggested that unless the requirement is withdrawn, this will be the tip of the iceberg in terms of ‘compensation’ – another example of a completely moderate and sensible government regulation being threatened by unelected, unaccountable corporate lawyers.

It is often claimed that these corporate courts ‘only’ effect developing countries with dubious standards of law. That would be bad enough, but Canada is not a developing country, yet has lost millions of dollars to these corporate courts after signing an investment deal like TTIP with the US. These cases should be instructive to European governments.

The European Commission is keen to tell us that they are reforming the corporate court procedure for TTIP, so there’s no need to worry. But from what we’ve seen of such reforms to date, they may actually make matters worse. Veteran investment arbitrator Todd Weiler said of the reformed system: “I love it, the new Canadian-EU treaty…we used to have to argue about all of those [foreign investor rights]…And now we have this great list. I just love it when they try to explain things.”

In a ground-breaking report, the House of Commons Business Select Committee came out today saying it wasn’t convinced of the need for the corporate court system. ISDS is also opposed by the Labour Party, the SNP, the Green Party (who in fact oppose the whole deal) and 97% of respondents to a recent Commission consultation. It has recently been flagged by a number of US Senate Democrats as a reason to oppose TTIP.

Canada shows why it’s important that all these politicians stick to their guns. The corporate court system fundamentally challenges our ability to protect the environment. However you reform it, it has no role in a democratic society.

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  2. Take action against TTIP along with over 1,600,000 others
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Image: Angula Berria/Flickr

2014 News

TTIP Update (12 October 2014):

#noTTIP 11 October Day of Action – London round-up.
From Occupy London:
Over 400 actions in 22 different countries took place on 11th October for the Europe-wide day of action against TTIP with over 1000 protesters rallying in London’s Parliament Square.
Read the full round-up.

TTIP Update (09 October 2014):

Declassified TTIP negotiating mandate published.
The Council of the EU today published the declassified negotiating directives for talks on the EU-US trade agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnerships (TTIP). Commenting, European Commissioner Karel de Gucht said: “I’m delighted EU governments have chosen today to make the TTIP negotiating mandate public – something I’ve been encouraging them to do for a long time…” (!?)
On obtaining confirmation of the disclosure, Dr. Michael Efler of the European Citizens´ Initiative (ECI) commented: “It is a first step but will not solve the transparency problem of the negotiations and of course it will not solve the problem that the content of the negotiations is unbalanced and a threat to democracy, environment and to social standards.”
In the meantime, good news for the ECI as they’ve already gathered over 350,000 signatures in the 3 days since their campaign went live.
Read the declassified mandate.

TTIP Update (06 October 2014):

Sign the European Citizens’ Initiative against TTIP and CETA
The day has come: Today marks the start of signature collection for a self-organised European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) against TTIP and CETA!!!
Here is a quick reminder from the Campaign’s team on why you should sign it:
“As you know, the EU soon intends to sign two far-reaching trade agreements: one with Canada (CETA = Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) and one with the USA (TTIP = Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). The official line is that this will create jobs and increase economic growth. However, the beneficiaries of these agreements will be big corporations, not citizens:
– Investor-State-Dispute Settlement (ISDS): Canadian and US companies would have the right to sue for damages if they believe that they have suffered losses because of government decisions (for instance new laws to protect the environment or consumer rights).
– Improving or even maintaining our standards for food, labour rights, environmental protection and consumer rights will become much harder.
– Liberalisation and privatisation would effectively become irreversible.
– The EU and its member states would come under pressure to allow risky technologies such as fracking or genetic modification.
CETA and TTIP would increase the power of multinationals at the expense of democracy and the public. We must not allow this to happen!”
Sign the European Citizens’ Initiative here.

TTIP Update (01 October 2014):

WDM call to action!
A new press release published by the World Development Movement (WDM) calls on activists in the UK to rise up and join people from across Europe and the US to demonstrate their opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on 11 October, adding: “Politicians are increasingly on the back foot regarding TTIP. If we work together, we can defeat TTIP like we have defeated other dangerous trade deals in the past. Across the world, countries from South Africa to Ecuador are ripping up agreements like this one. Make your voice heard on 11 October.”
Read the full release.

Download the flyer for 11 October Day of Action

Email your MP

#nottip speakers discuss impact of TTIP on AL Jazeera’s The Stream.
12 July #nottip Day of Action speakers Executive Director at War on Want, John Hilary, and International Campaigns Director at Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, Melinda St. Louis, were on air last night raising awareness on the negative effects of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The 25 minute-long debate was streamed live and open to public comments via tweets with a further 10 minutes added post-show. In the blue corner, Trade Policy Analyst at the CATO Institute, Simon Lester and Director International Relations at Business Europe, Luisa Santos quoted benefits to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and more consumer choice as some of the “positives” of the free trade deal.
Watch the full debate.

TTIP Update (26 September 2014):

Large pinch-of-salt bombshell dropped as new European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström states she wants ISDS out of TTIP.
Responding to a questionnaire by the EU Parliament committee published by German MEP Sven Giegold just days before the 7th round of TTIP negotiations take place on Monday 29 September, and quoting President-elect Juncker’s Political Guidelines to her, The EU Trade commissioner stated she was in full support of his commitment to exclude the investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism from TTIP.
Malmström continues: “Transparency, administrative reform and good governance are all values and issues I have been defending all my political life and I am convinced that transparency leads to higher efficiency and increased accountability.”
We say, don’t put our money where your mouth is.
Read the full questionnaire.

TTIP Update (25 September 2014):

UK groups endorse anti-CETA initiative at Ottawa summit.
Keep Our NHS Public, StopTTIP, War on Want and WDM join over a hundred organizations on both sides of the atlantic to strongly oppose the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union.
The social movements issued a statement on the eve of the Canada–European Union summit in Ottawa.
The statement calls for the mobilization of all Canadian and European social movements and organizations, as well as all those citizens who are concerned by the effects of such agreements, in order to exert pressure to hold a broad and informed public debate on the CETA: “In the short term, we invite everyone to mobilize at the Canada-European Union Summit in Ottawa on September 26 at noon in front of the Canadian Parliament Buildings, and during the European Day of Action against TTIP, CETA, and TISA on October 11, and to actively participate in the self-organized European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) over the coming months.”
Read the full statement.

TTIP Update (19 September 2014):

Contribute to the new public consultation on TTIP transparency.
The consultation launched by the European Ombudsman gives everyone the opportunity to make known their views on the issues raised by its own inquiry into transparency during the European Commission’s trade negotiations.
Specifically, the Ombudsman invites you to respond constructively to 3 questions by 31 October, including how, in your view, greater transparency might affect the outcome of the negotiations.
As part of their inquiry, they will then forward all the contributions received to the European Commission and may also publish them online.
A second inquiry on the same subject was opened towards the Council of the EU as well.
Here’s how to contribute.

TTIP Update (14 August 2014):

STOP PRESS: Philip Morris threatens to sue the British government for plain package proposals. TTIP would make such cases easier and more frequent .

Record-breaking EU consultation closes; call for a halt on negotiations on all ISDS mechanisms.
In the face of public pressure, the European Commission opened a public consultation on Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms in March. ISDS allows foreign companies to sue governments for ‘indirect expropriation’, which has been interpreted very widely to essentially mean infringement of profits.
There were just under 150,000 submissions – the largest response to such a consultation to date. Over a third of submissions were from the UK; over 52,000. The Commission published a ‘statistical overview’. Further analysis will be published in November.

Meanwhile we are calling for the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which also contains an ISDS mechanism, to be put on hold. You can find more information on ISDS and the consultation here.

The NHS is not exempt from TTIP
Just before the 6th round of TTIP negotiations EU negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero, wrote to John Healey MP, to reassure him on the status of the NHS in TTIP. We contend that there is nothing new in the letter, and that the NHS is not exempt from TTIP, unlike the audio visual sector.

Mr Garcia Bercero confirms that health services are “within the scope” of TTIP and that the proposed ISDS mechanism could be used to bring cases for compensation against government decisions over the NHS. The Slovak Republic has already been sued successfully under similar investment provisions for reversing health privatisation policies.

The UK government has only entered a reservation for ambulance services. Under TTIP, US health care companies would have the right to supply hospital services or social services. You can find further analysis here.

Leaked EU chapter on Sanitary and Photosanitary (SPS) confirms TTIP threat to food safety.
A leaked draft chapter on SPS issues reveals plans to cut port of entry food inspections; prioritise ‘impact on trade’ over the optimisation of public health; and limit a country’s ability to block the import of suspected unsafe food. These are all measures that can and will clearly undermine food safety in the EU/UK.

This chapter is seemingly being proposed by EU negotiators despite Commissioner De Gucht’s assurances that “we won’t be changing our food safety laws in TTIP”. A complete analysis of the leaked draft chapter on SPS, and its implications for food safety can be found here.

The next round of negotiations will take place in Washington DC from 29 September.