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Opt Out Needed From EU/US Trade Deal

Monday, December 16, 2013

UK Must Secure Opt Out From Disputes Mechanism In New EU/US TTIP Talks Resuming 16 December To Safeguard UK National Sovereignty

Mechanism limits the ability of member states to decide what sectors like the NHS should stay in the public sector and hands power to unelected and unaccountable corporations says GMB.

Talks resume in Washington today (on 16 December) to carry on negotiations to reach a new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States. These talks started on 8th July 2013 also in Washington.

The TTIP will include an Investor-State Disputes Settlement (ISDS) mechanism. The ISDS machinery is ostensibly designed to depoliticise investment disputes and to create a forum that offers investors a fair hearing before a supposedly independent, neutral and qualified tribunal. This mechanism is included in previous US free trade agreements and bilateral trade agreements, notably the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

GMB is re-iterating its call for the UK Government to ensure that the UK secures an opt out to ISDS mechanism clauses in any future TTIP. See GMB press release of 8th July setting out GMB position.

Kathleen Walker Shaw, GMB European Officer, said “GMB does not want to see limits on the ability of member states to decide what sectors like the NHS should stay in the public sector or see power handed to unelected and unaccountable corporations.

That is why GMB is calling on the UK Government to protect the UK’s sovereign interests by refusing to contemplate any agreement that includes controversial provisions whereby transnational companies can sue nation states in secret courts presided over by unaccountable corporate lawyers.

Despite repeated warnings by trade unions and other civil society organisations, the European Commission is determined to press ahead with ISDS, thus allowing transnational companies to effectively dictate what member states can and cannot do with public policy.

ISDS already exists in bilateral trade deals and is enshrined in NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, but this would be the first EU-wide investment protection treaty.

Given that 50% of EU Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) comes from the US and over half the FDI in the US comes from the EU, the potential for litigation is apparent. Of the current ISDS cases in dispute around the world, 64% emanate from Europe or the United States. 15 EU member states have already faced one or more investor state challenges and the Czech Republic is the fifth most sued country in the world.

Bert Schouwenburg, GMB International Officer, said, “The American Chamber of Commerce says that the investment chapter of the trade agreement with the EU should become the gold standard for all other investment agreements.

Their desire for what is effectively a transatlantic corporate bill of rights must not be allowed to come to fruition. As talks on the deal reopen today we are calling on David Cameron and the UK Government not to sacrifice the public interest on the altar of corporate profit.”

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Contact Bert Schouwenburg 07974 251 764 or Kathleen Walker Shaw 07841 181 549 GMB press office 07921 289 880 or 07974 251 823

Notes to editors

Copy of GMB press release - 8th July 2013.

UK MUST SECURE OPT OUT FROM DISPUTES MECHANISM IN NEW EU/US TTIP TALKS STARTING ON MONDAY 8TH JULY TO SAFEGUARD NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY

This mechanism takes away the ability of member states to decide what sectors like the NHS should stay in the public sector and hands power to unaccountable tax avoiding corporations says GMB

GMB is calling for the UK to secure an opt-out from the disputes mechanism which may form part of a new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States.

GMB is seeking an opt-out for the UK when negotiations begin in Washington next Monday 8th July if the Investor-State Disputes Settlement mechanism is included in the TTIP.

GMB want this opt out from this mechanism because it effectively take away the ability of sovereign member states to decide what sectors like the NHS should be part of the public sector. Under it private companies to sue governments for damages for social and economic decisions they do not like does not like.

The ISDS machinery was ostensibly designed to depoliticise investment disputes and create a forum that offered investors a fair hearing before a supposedly independent, neutral and qualified tribunal. This mechanism is included in previous US free trade agreements and bilateral trade agreements, notably the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Bert Schouwenburg, GMB International Officer, said “The legitimacy of the unaccountable Investor-State Disputes Settlement mechanism has repeatedly been called into question.

This is because it takes away the ability of member states to decide what sectors like the NHS should stay in the public sector and hands power to unelected and unaccountable corporations.

We know from the tax avoidance scandals what these corporations do when given free reign.

Foreign investors have used it extensively to challenge measures adopted by sovereign states to promote social equity, foster environmental protection or protect public health.

Countries who are signed up to this mechanism have face claims up to £70 billion and awards up to £1 billion.

In addition, proceedings are usually conducted in secret and arbitrated by a relatively small group of unaccountable specialist lawyers whose impartiality has been called into question.

If the Investor-State Disputes Settlement mechanism in included in TTIP it is conceivable that a giant American health insurance corporation could insist that it be allowed to buy up services currently provided by the NHS. If it is prevented from doing so it could sue the sovereign UK Government for damages. The UK would be bound to accept the decision of a group of trade lawyers based in New York.

David Cameron is fond of wrapping himself in the Union flag and complaining that British sovereignty is being compromised by decisions taken on our behalf by the EU.

GMB want to see him demanding an opt-out for the UK if the mechanism is included in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

GMB cannot support a treaty that will allow the future of the NHS to be decided outside the UK by a bunch of unelected, unaccountable lawyers in New York. “

end

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