On Wednesday the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This resolution clarifies the Parliament’s position on the proposed EU-US trade deal, providing guidance to the European Commission on how to continue the negotiations.
The resolution comes only weeks after Parliament President Martin Schulz was forced to cancel a previous scheduled vote on the position, when negotiations over the highly controversial Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism and other issues resulted in deadlock.
ISDS replaced with a new extra-judicial mechanism
The vote yesterday upheld an amendment that calls for replacing the ISDS system with “a new system for resolving disputes between investors and states.”
In short, the ISDS mechanism gives foreign corporations the power to sue governments and challenge legislation in courts outside of a domestic judicial system. Unfortunately, as we feared, the “new system” to replace ISDS appears to have all the same characteristics, and as such, represents a continued threat to governments and consumers.
Access denounces approval of this new version of the ISDS. Passage of the amendment represents a failure to develop strong rules that would sufficiently protect democratic legislative processes and accountability.
However, the ISDS is not the only issue of concern in the negotiations over TTIP. Here’s a look at other important issues in play, including privacy, data protection, Net Neutrality, and free expression.
TTIP & Digital rights – What did the Parliament decide?
In addition to upholding the amendment to replace the ISDS, the Parliament voted down a proposed data protection amendment. The data protection provision in the draft resolution was already strong, ensuring that the laws protecting data in the EU would not be sacrificed in the trade agreement. However, the rejected amendment would have provided more robust protections for the right to privacy, by excluding it from the negotiations.
The Parliament did include in the resolution positive language on encryption and a human rights clause. The clause lacks clarity, however, and the Parliament voted down an amendment that would have strengthened it.
There is no mention of Net Neutrality anywhere in the document, a promising indication that the agreement must not threaten Net Neutrality protections — existing or being developed — on either side of the Atlantic. That’s an important positive development.
However, the high-level language of the intellectual property chapter remains in the resolution, despite the urgings of the Legal Affairs Committee to take copyright, patents, and trademarks off of the negotiating table. This means that we could see provisions in the final agreement that do not strike the right balance between intellectual property rights and other rights, such as the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. Access regrets the decision of the Parliament to reject amendments to strengthen protection of these rights.
In conclusion, there are some promising parts of the resolution, including no mention of Net Neutrality. However, this is a non-binding text, and it is unclear how it will impact the next round of closed-door negotiations taking place in Brussels next week.