'Favoring Capitalist Interests Above All Else,' Europe's Parliament Backs TTIP

Members of European Parliament (MEPs) on Wednesday passed a resolution on the pending trade deal between Europe and the United States, backing a controversial provision that critics warn places corporate profits above the health and safety of the people and puts the continent’s fragile democracy at great risk.

Despite clear disagreement within European Parliament (EP) over the inclusion of a modified version of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision, MEPs voted 436-241 in favor of a draft text of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

“TTIP is fundamentally an issue of people and democracy versus encroaching corporate power.” —Nick Dearden, Global Justice NowWhile MEPs have no direct role in the secret talks between nations, the draft will influence the way the European Commission proceeds with negotiations. Once negotiations are complete, MEPs will vote as to whether to accept or reject the final agreement.

Wednesday’s vote came after contentious manipulations on the part of EP President Martin Schulz—for which he was accused of “shredding the rules of procedure”—to a remove an amendment that would have taken ISDS off the table entirely.

To date, more than 145,500 people have signed a petition calling for the exclusion of the ISDS mechanism, which establishes a parallel legal system enabling corporations to sue governments if public policy harms their profits. Further, 2.3 million people are backing a European Citizens Initiative to end TTIP negotiations altogether. In April, a global day of action against the deal saw tens of thousands of protesters across the European continent.

Opponents of the pact say it will undermine important health, food, labor, and environmental protections in favor of multinational interests and, following the vote, expressed dismay over the failure of their elected representatives to protect their citizens.

“Almost all the MEPs that voted in Parliament today have received many thousands of emails from their constituents wanting them to vote against TTIP,” trade campaigner Guy Taylor wrote Wednesday. The roll call of the vote, Taylor adds, “shows who’s paying the piper in Strasbourg that MEPs can ignore such a strongly articulated public mandate and instead vote in favour of corporate interests.”

“TTIP offers a nightmare vision of a world sold into corporate slavery.” —John Hilary, War on WantCiting the more than 2.3 million people who are calling for an end to the TTIP negotiations, John Hilary, executive director of the international social justice group War on Want, also remarked, “Yet MEPs have chosen to ignore the wishes of their own constituents, siding instead with the business lobby against the people of Europe.”

And Nick Dearden with the UK-based Global Justice Now added, “The only reason that MEPs are still trying so desperately to push this through is because of the enormously powerful corporate lobby machine in Brussels. TTIP is fundamentally an issue of people and democracy versus encroaching corporate power.”

Instead of removing the controversial provision, the draft includes a so-called “ISDS-lite,” which critics warn resolves none of the issues with the pro-corporate ISDS mechanism. Schulz inserted the compromise amendment after a previously scheduled vote was postponed due to internal disagreement over ISDS.