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EU: Is your borough a no-TTIP zone? Make it happen

Local opposition offers new hope, writes KEVIN SMITH

POLITICIANS in both Brussels and Westminster have taken great pains to try to brush off people’s many concerns about the toxic EU-US trade deal being pushed through. But a new front is emerging in the battle against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This front is harnessing the energy of grassroots groups to push local councils to oppose the corporate power grab TTIP represents. In Britain and across Europe, TTIP-free zones are popping up.

It may be seen as a purely symbolic gesture to get your local council to declare itself a TTIP-free zone. After all, these councils don’t have a direct say in whether or not the deal would be passed. But there is political value in creating pressure in this manner — it’s a powerful expression of grassroots opposition that MPs and MEPs might otherwise not be exposed to.

But TTIP-free zones help highlight the effect TTIP would have on the powers of local councils. TTIP could also affect existing powers granted to local authorities such as planning. The decision of Lancashire County Council to deny planning permission for fracking in the local area is the sort of decision that would be harder to make under TTIP — first because such a decision could be challenged in the corporate courts of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system, and second because of the pressure to “harmonise” energy regulations.

The provision of local public services and procurement could also be affected. Current EU rules allow for environmental and social considerations in awarding contracts. For example, local governments can decide to buy only fairtrade or organic produce. Local authorities are also allowed to ensure that procurement benefits small and medium-sized businesses in the area. For instance, a number of cities, including Manchester and Glasgow, have become sustainable food cities and are trying to use more locally sourced, sustainable food in the public sector.

This could all be threatened under TTIP because the European Commission, keen to access US local markets by getting rid of “Buy America” schemes across the Atlantic, has said it wants TTIP to open local procurement to greater competition. This means that procurement could be constrained far more by price alone — giving US multinationals more access to markets at the expense of the local economy and the environment. Official EU estimates are that TTIP will induce a 25-50 per cent liberalisation of government procurement.

So it’s not surprising that in a short space of time, 19 local councils across Britain have, to some extent, declared themselves TTIP-free zones, including Sheffield, Glasgow and Bradford city councils. Chas Booth, a Green Party councillor for Leith, Edinburgh, which is one of those 19 councils, said: “In Edinburgh, we are proud of initiatives such as the Edinburgh Guarantee, which aims to ensure employment or training for school leavers. Likewise the Edible Edinburgh initiative aims to encourage local and seasonal food. These are just two of the possible targets from corporate lawyers if TTIP goes through unchallenged.”

And it’s not just Britain that’s worried. In Austria, Germany, France and Belgium there are significant numbers of TTIP-free zones being declared by local authorities. When negotiators in Brussels leave their meetings they immediately walk out into the Brussels municipality which is itself a TTIP-free zone. There are 39 no-TTIP councils in Spain and a good covering in northern Italy. This is a Europe-wide movement of local resistance to the corporate power grab that TTIP represents.

There still a long way to go. There are over 400 local councils of different kinds in Britain, so there are a lot of opportunities for local groups concerned about TTIP to raise the issue. Fortunately Global Justice Now has worked with public-sector union Unison to produce a campaign pack consisting of briefings, posters, leaflets, badges, stickers and a sample motion for you to use asking your local council to become a TTIP-free zone. They’re free and can be ordered from

The biggest threat of TTIP has always been to democracy — the threat that corporations could have more say about what we eat, what we wear and how we structure our societies. So it’s fitting that one of the most exciting forms of resistance happening right now is happening within local democracy, which is less impeded by the corporate lobbying that’s so prevalent in Brussels and Westminster. Get in touch with your local councillors about becoming a TTIP-free zone and let us know how you get on.

TTIP deal: Business lobbyists dominate talks at expense of trade unions and NGOs

Green MEP Molly Scott Cato: This is a corporate discussion, not a democratic one.

European Commission officials have held hundreds of meetings with lobbyists to discuss the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) treaty – yet only around one in ten is with public interest groups.

The world’s biggest companies in finance, technology, pharma, tobacco and telecoms are dominating discussions with the EU executive body’s trade department responsible for the proposed EU-US free trade treaty, which could become the biggest such deal ever made.

Between January 2012 and February 2014, as TTIP discussions began, the Commission’s trade department (DG Trade) had 597 behind-closed-door meetings with lobbyists to discuss the negotiations, according to internal Commission files obtained by research group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO).

There were 528 meetings (88 per cent) with business lobbyists while only 53 (9 per cent) were with groups such as trade unions and NGOs. The remainder were with other parties such as public institutions and academics.

European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström took office in November last year promising a “fresh start” for the TTIP negotiations. More civil society involvement and listening to public concerns was her “top priority”, she said. Yet in her first six months in office Ms Malmström, her Cabinet and the Director General of DG Trade had 121 one-on-one private lobby meetings in which TTIP was discussed.

CEO said 100 of these declared meetings (83 per cent) were with business lobbyists – but only 20 (17 per cent) were held with public interest groups. The other meeting was with a standard setting institution. Although the EU has a transparency register for lobbyists it is only voluntary and CEO revealed that one in five corporate groups lobbying DG Trade on TTIP are not on it.

Politicians have joined campaigners in calling for greater transparency in the Commission’s TTIP negotiations after The Independent published the heavily redacted correspondence between ‘Big Tobacco’ companies British American Tobacco (BAT) and Philip Morris obtained by CEO.

Green MEP Molly Scott Cato said: “The censoring that the Commission has undertaken regarding its discussions with big tobacco reaffirms the secrecy surrounding these negotiations and is symbolic of the way MEPs, the European Parliament and European citizens are being treated.

“Looking through the smoke haze we can see why these documents appear blacked out. Nine out of ten lobby contacts during the preparatory phase of the TTIP negotiations were with companies and corporate lobby groups. Corporations are effectively co-writing the treaty. Yet the vast majority of citizens are against TTIP.

“A worrying aspect of this particular cover-up is that tobacco control policies are vital for public health. We know that Big Tobacco have used comparable trade treaties to take legal action against Australia and Uruguay as those nation have attempted to take action in the interests of public health.”

BAT, the world’s second largest tobacco group with brands in 180 countries, spends between 1.5m and 1.75m euros a year employing seven lobbyists in the EU. Philip Morris spends between 1.25m and 1.5m on employing six lobbyists, although not all working full-time on EU-related activities.

Yet even that spend is dwarfed by companies such as European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations and ExxonMobil Petroleum and Chemical spend even more on lobbying – 5m euros each annually, according to the register.

By contrast the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention NGO spends less than 10,000 euros a year employing two lobbyists in Brussels in a part-time basis. It survives with the help of a 200,000 euros grant from the EU.

Politicians are only allowed to read documents relating to TTIP in a secure European Parliament restricted reading room. They are also required to sign a 14-page document ultimately promising not to share the information with their constituents.

Ms Scott Cato described the experience earlier this year comparing it to “a scene from a James Bond film”.

She said: “I don’t feel what I was granted access to contained the important details. Key information seems to have been retracted; there was little of interest. But what I did see did not leave me with any sense of reassurance, either that the process of negotiating this trade deal is democratic, or that the negotiators are operating on behalf of citizens. It reconfirmed that this is a corporate discussion, not a democratic one.”

No smoke without fire: Negotiations with tobacco firms must be transparent

Despite the almost comical redacting of entire pages of material, the release of documents by the European Commission on the implementation of TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) sheds useful light on the Commission’s dealing with the big tobacco firms.

The suspicion is that these powerful multinationals are using their influence in a (literally) unhealthy manner, and attempting to make the European Union agree to provisions that would seriously harm efforts to cut back on tobacco smoking across Europe – a large and profitable market for the cigarette makers. While rates of smoking, among men at least, have been coming down across Western Europe since the cancer link was discovered more than half a century ago, Eastern Europe may hold greater opportunities for expansion for tobacco companies, as those economies grow in prosperity.

Despite the efforts of Corporate Europe Observatory to make a reality of freedom of information, Brussels still clearly has a good deal to learn about transparency. TTIP will have a dramatic effect on Europe’s peoples. There remain deep concerns that the benefits of trade liberalisation will be negated by a raft of concession to big business.

MEPs slam commission for ‘smoke-screening’ tobacco lobby meetings

Written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli

The commission has been attacked for releasing highly censured documents linked to TTIP talks with big tobacco.

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As part of its effort to make EU trade agreement talks more transparent – including those for the controversial transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) – the European commission has released a series of documents detailing contacts with the tobacco industry.

This was done at the request of transparency campaigners Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), back in March.

However, much of the documents’ contents were blacked out, including the names of all the lobbyists and commission officials involved in meetings, dates and even, in a 14-page letter from British American Tobacco, a page number.

Defending the heavy censorship of the files, commission secretary-general Catherine Day argued that “public interest [on the issue] does neither outweigh the public interest in protecting the commission’s international relations and decision-making process, nor the commercial interests of the companies in question in this case.”

Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats MEP Glenis Willmott blasted Day’s reasoning, pointing out that “there is a fundamental conflict between the public interest and the commercial interests of the tobacco industry, which rely on the promotion of a product that is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Europe.”

Fellow Socialist deputy Catherine Stihler said, “my colleagues and I have been clear that bringing an end to secret investor tribunals are essential elements of any EU-US trade agreement and I would think it was issues such as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) being discussed at these meetings”.

ISDS has been one of the most hotly debated aspects of TTIP, with many MEPs staunchly opposing it. It was originally planned as a private arbitration mechanism between governments and corporations, leading to fears that companies would have too much power over national policymaking.

During last month’s plenary session, parliament backed a resolution calling for an amended ISDS, with “publically appointed, independent professional judges [in] public hearings”, according to the adopted text.

Stihler added, “tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the EU, so it is in the public interest for talks with this industry to be transparent.”

“Protecting public health is of the highest importance, not commercial interests of big business. I would encourage the commission to offer further insight into the talks.”

Meanwhile, Irish MEP Nessa Childers has submitted several parliamentary questions on what she described as “the commission’s smoke-screening of its dealings with big tobacco in trade talks.”

She underlined that, “this level of secrecy undermines the legitimacy of trade talks and raises questions about the propriety of the commission’s contacts with big tobacco when they should be making them transparent and kept to the minimum necessary to regulate this industry, in accordance with world health organisation rules that it has subscribed to.”

Childers said she “would like to see if the commission can shed light on the inconsistencies within secretary-general Day’s response and between it and yesterday’s [Wednesday] denial from the commission’s team in charge of EU-US trade talks that these documents have nothing to do with the TTIP agreement under negotiation.”

The commission has repeatedly argued that the documents were censured because they “contain elements that relate to [its] negotiating position with regards to tobacco in the ongoing bilateral negotiations for a free trade agreement with the USA and Japan.”

According to Childers, “in the face of all these tarred pages, they seem not only to be very much connected, but also that the commission is happy to provide the industry with information they don’t want the public to see.”

CEO said in a statement that it was “deeply concerned about the commission’s secrecy around its relations with tobacco industry lobbyists and more widely the secrecy around its international trade negotiations”.

The campaign group said they will file a complaint with European ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, who is due to publish the results of her investigation into tobacco lobbying in the coming weeks.

About the author
Julie Levy-Abegnoli is a journalist and editorial assistant for the Parliament Magazine

Total Black Out: Brussels Accused of Cover-up Over Tobacco Lobby Dealings

The European Commission is accused of a widespread cover-up after refusing to release the full details of dealings between its officials and the tobacco industry during negotiations for the highly controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) treaty.

Following a freedom of information (FOI) request by research and campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), the European Commission released an almost completely redacted letter that it received from British American Tobacco regarding their recent correspondence.

The 14-page document was almost completely redacted, with almost all of the content, including names of officials and lobbyists, dates of the meetings and even the issues discussed blacked out.
Less than 5 percent of the text was visible, which included merely a few standard introductory and closing remarks.

The documents were in relation to discussions about the proposed TTIP trade deal being negotiated between the US and EU, as well as separate negotiations between EU and Japanese officials.

Fears Over ISDS

TTIP negotiations have been dogged by a severe lack of transparency of behalf of government officials involved in the talks, with the almost completely blacked out letter increasing fears that such a trade deal will include provisions for tobacco companies to sue governments if they attempt to tighten smoking legislation.

The investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) process is currently being used by tobacco giant Philip Morris, which is undertaking legal action against Australia after the government introduced plain cigarette packaging, while the same company is also suing Uruguay for $25 million over its attempts to increase health warnings of the packaging of tobacco products.

CEO has denounced the release of the letter, backing its call for a full disclosure of negotiations between European officials and tobacco lobby groups.

The group says that full disclosure of the documents is necessary in order to “enable the public to scrutinize the nature of the relations between DG Trade [Directorate-General for Trade of the European Commission] and the tobacco industry” and “to enable the public to assess the extent to which the EU-Japan FTA (and TTIP) poses a risk to tobacco control policies.”

In response, Catherine Day, Secretary-General of the European Commission, dismissed arguments that the transparency of negotiations was in the public interest, saying that it: “does neither outweigh the public interest in protecting the Commission’s international relations and decision-making process, nor the commercial interests of the companies in question.”

Day added that the documents could not be released in their entirety because they “contain elements that relate to the Commission’s negotiating position with regards to tobacco in the ongoing bilateral negotiations for a free trade agreement with the USA and Japan.”

Opposition to TTIP Grows

Following the FOI request, a number of politicians and campaign groups have heaped more pressure on EU governments to come clean on the highly secretive TTIP negotiations, while CEO officials say they are in the process of appealing against the redacted documents.

“CEO is deeply concerned about the Commission’s secrecy around its relations with tobacco industry lobbyists and more widely the secrecy around its international trade negotiations. We are therefore preparing a complaint to the European Ombudsman.”

The proposed TTIP trade deal, currently being negotiated by US and European Union member states, has attracted widespread public criticism in Europe for the lack of transparency associated with negotiations.

There are fears that the deal will result in a reduction of health and safety standards in Europe, and will favor large US multinational corporations, which critics say could kill off many European small businesses.

On top of widespread public demonstrations against TTIP, 2.5 million people have signed a petition against the treaty, with critics arguing that EU officials are determined to ram through the deal despite the wishes of the European public.

TTIP controversy: The European Commission and Big Tobacco accused of cover-up after heavily redacted documents released

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Paul Gallagher

Wednesday 26 August 2015

The European Commission has been accused of a cover-up after refusing to release details of talks between its officials and the tobacco industry during negotiations over the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) treaty.

Corporate lobbying campaigners published documents that revealed the EU’s executive body had met and corresponded with lobbyists from British American Tobacco and Philip Morris.

But the documents, as released, revealed little else.

Almost all the content, including the names of officials and tobacco lobbyists involved, the issues discussed and even the dates some meetings took place, had been redacted.

The documents relate to ongoing talks between the EU and the United States over the proposed TTIP free trade deal, as well as separate talks between the EU and Japan.

Critics of the trade talks, which centre on reducing the regulatory barriers to international trade for big business, said the documents back up fears that TTIP will allow tobacco giants to take legal action against the UK and other European governments who attempt to tighten smoking legislation.

Responding to a Freedom of Information request from an EU watchdog regarding contacts between officials and the tobacco industry, the European Commission released a set of documents that had been so heavily redacted as to be meaningless. In this 14-page letter from British American Tobacco from its London HQ, outlining its “serious concerns with the consistency of [redacted]”, only five per cent of the text was visible.

So-called “Big Tobacco” firms have already used similar legislation to sue countries around the world: Philip Morris used a comparable trade treaty to take legal action against Australia over mandatory plain cigarette packaging and is also suing Uruguay in a $25m lawsuit over its attempts to enlarge health warnings on cigarette packets.

The heavily redacted documents were released by Catherine Day, Secretary-General of the European Commission, in reply to a freedom of information transparency request by the research and campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO).

They include a 14-page letter from British American Tobacco, written on 15 May last year from the company’s London office, which sets out its “serious concerns with the consistency of [redacted]”.

The remaining 13 pages are blacked-out entirely with the exception of some perfunctory closing remarks. A previous letter from Commission officials to the tobacco company is also almost entirely redacted with the exception of a reference to “allegations” made by BAT, presumably over the trade talks.

In another document – a one-page summary of a meeting between Commission officials and the US cigarette firm Philip Morris – even the date of the meeting is removed.

CEO had argued for full disclosure of the documents citing the EU’s freedom of information law and the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The latter’s guidelines oblige governments to limit interactions with the tobacco industry to a minimum and to ensure full transparency of those interactions that occur.

Ms Day refused the request allowing only “partial access” stating that the documents “contain elements that relate to the Commission’s negotiating position with regards to tobacco in the ongoing bilateral negotiations for a free trade agreement with the USA and Japan.”

She said: “Whilst I fully recognise the importance of transparency in enabling citizens to follow trade negotiations, I take the view that this public interest does neither outweigh the public interest in protecting the Commission’s international relations and decision-making process, nor the commercial interests of the companies in question in this case.”

The Secretary General said disclosure of the discussions with BAT would reveal the Commission’s negotiating positions and tactical considerations which, in turn, would weaken the EU’s position in the ongoing trade talks.

The CEO campaign group has said it was “deeply concerned about the Commission’s secrecy around its relations with tobacco industry lobbyists” and is preparing a complaint to the European Ombudsman.

Campaigners fear that a system of international-state dispute settlements (ISDS) created by TTIP will allow multinational firms including tobacco companies to sue European governments in tribunals ruled upon by lawyers.

Reacting to the publication of the redacted documents, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Trade agreements must be negotiated in the public interest not for private profit. The agreements currently being negotiated allow foreign investors, such as tobacco companies, privileged access to huge compensation payments for democratically-made decisions that might threaten their future profits.

“The TUC believes there is no place for such ISDS provisions in any trade agreement. A level playing field means the same arrangements for foreign investors as for workers, consumers and other stakeholders. EU trade negotiators must operate on the principle that their negotiations should be public unless there is a good reason for confidentiality. Sadly, they seem more wedded to keeping this secret unless they are forced into the open.”

Labour leadership hopeful Andy Burnham described the lack of transparency as ‘alarming’ and ‘damaging’ (Reuters)

Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham told The Independent he would give “no guarantee of support” for the TTIP deal if he was elected.

He said: “The alarming lack of transparency in the TTIP negotiations has damaged public confidence in the entire process. In particular, the involvement of big tobacco in those discussions raises serious concerns and appears to go against commitments under the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control not to include tobacco companies in policy discussions. There must be a full and open public debate about its merits and challenges before any decision is made.”

The European Union claims a number of “myths and false claims” have been made about TTIP including one that “big business is calling the shots on TTIP”.

In a briefing document on “the top 10 myths of TTIP: separating fact from fiction” the European Commission says: “The TTIP talks are the most open ever for a trade deal and our negotiators are consulting widely.”

That claim was dismissed as “laughable” by campaigners last night. Blanche Jones, Campaigns Director at political activist group 38 Degrees, said: “These redacted documents prove that the officials behind TTIP, a deal that will affect millions of people, are laughing in the face of democracy. What use is a document with almost all of the words blacked out? It must be suspicious to keep it so secret.

“Leaks to the TTIP text so far have revealed huge dangers for our rights, our public services and our environmental protections. 38 Degrees members are calling on the European Commission to end this nonsense now – the public has a right to know what powers big businesses are lined up to get.”

Labour MEP and European health spokesperson Glenis Willmott said: “I’m deeply concerned that the Commission is not prepared to give further details on its dealings with the tobacco industry.

The Commission’s reply states that the public interest in transparency does not outweigh the commercial interests of the companies in question. Yet there is a fundamental conflict between the public interest and commercial interests of the tobacco industry, which rely on the promotion of a product that is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Europe.

“Given the importance of strong tobacco control policies in protecting public health, I think it’s entirely reasonable for the public to have an interest in tobacco industry lobbying on TTIP.”

Although MEPs cannot start or stop trade talks the European Parliament can approve or reject TTIP once negotiations, set to continue beyond 2016, are concluded.

A spokesperson for British American Tobacco said: “The letters that were shared do not relate to any tobacco control measures nor do they attempt to influence tobacco control regulations; but rather contain commercially-sensitive information relevant to the Commission’s various negotiations regarding free trade agreements.

“Commission officials have the right to hear all views that impact the whole of the EU business community when formulating new trade agreements. We advocate transparency in all of our communications where it does not conflict with commercial confidentiality and sensitivities, and believe that all sides should adopt this approach

If you’re not already terrified about the potential human cost of TTIP, these examples will do it

Ruby Stockham

In one of the most famous cases of TTIP-like nightmares, tobacco ‘giant’ Philip Morris sued Uruguay for its anti-smoking campaign

Unfortunately, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is not very interesting. Part of the reason that the super secretive trade deal has been able to dodge scrutiny so nimbly is that the nuance of the legislation hardly makes for great headlines. Crucially, TTIP doesn’t have a face.

But it will do. If the deal goes through, there will be no shortage of human stories about the harm it has caused.

Take, for example, the farmers who will see their income fall by 0.5 per cent (the EU’s own estimate) if the partnership is implemented. TTIP’s deregulatory approach will lower EU food and environmental safety standards to bring them in line with those of the US. This will lead to an increase in factory farming that will harm both the environment and the livelihoods of farmers in the UK and across Europe.

And what about the animals themselves? The US has far fewer regulations on farm animal welfare than the EU does. It uses, for example, barren battery cages for hens, too small for a single animal to spread its wings in and yet employed to house three or four. You don’t have to be an animal lover to see that a deal which brings Europe down to this level is absolutely regressive.

For farmers, this is that ‘race to the bottom’ so beloved of the Conservatives – they’ll have to choose between lowering their standards of welfare, and trying to stay upright in a sea of aggressive corporate competition.

Then there’s the NHS. There is still a great deal of uncertainty around what TTIP will mean for the NHS, and the negotiators have a great aptitude for keeping the details murky.

The EU says that it will negotiate an exemption from the deal for publicly funded health services, and UK MEPs have scrambled to echo this. But what constitutes a ‘health’ service? What about those parts of the NHS that are not directly related to patient care like catering, IT or administrative services? Outsourcing these to private providers would still push up costs overall; perhaps more importantly, these privatised services would prioritise the rights of the corporations who own them over the patient in their care.

For a complete picture of the suffering this changed NHS would cause in the UK, consider alongside it the power TTIP would give corporations like tobacco companies to sue governments for health campaigns detrimental to their profits. In the most famous case, scary-sounding tobacco ‘giant’ Philip Morris sued Uruguay for its anti-smoking campaign. This is nothing short of a public health catastrophe.

And it’s not just Europe that will be affected by this deal. A lot depends on the wording of the final draft (currently due 2016) but in essence it would make it hard for non-TTIP countries to export processed goods. It could mean that a country like the Ivory Coast, which is the world’s largest cocoa producer, would only be able to export cocoa beans in their raw form. The country would begin to lose customers at the very moment international trade is helping to industrialise it.

This Saturday, thousands of campaigners will be taking part in a country-wide day of action, handing out leaflets and informing the public about this deal which will have such huge repercussions for this generation and the next. You can find out about what’s going on in your area here.

There’s no denying that TTIP is kind of boring, and the reading matter is dry as dust. But it’s important that we fight to know what’s happening as this deal murmurs on behind closed doors, because it is in the interests of some very powerful people to ensure that we do not.

TTIP’s secret courts

The impressively dry topic of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) is at the heart of the debate over a proposed treaty between the EU and US.

ISDS allows companies or individual investors to seek compensation from an independent arbitration panel if another signed-up country breaks an agreement to protect foreign investments. Almost all existing treaties involving guarantees to foreign investors use it.

Both sides want to include it in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP, pronounced ‘T-tip’).

This is controversial. Campaigners complain about, among other things, a lack of transparency in ISDS proceedings.

Who decides cases, and where?

Using ISDS, a foreign investor that thinks it’s been treated in a way that an investment treaty doesn’t allow can ask an arbitration panel to decide the matter, rather than having to rely on the courts of the country they’re arguing with.

The arbitrators are usually commercial lawyers and academic experts in international law. Unlike a judge in a British court, they often double up: acting as an advocate for a government or company in one case, handing down decisions in another.

In general, each side will choose one arbitrator, with a third agreed upon or chosen by the organisation hosting the case.

The vast majority of cases are administered by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), part of the World Bank, or in line with rules published by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).

Are cases heard in secret?

Like other arbitration panels but unlike most courts, ICSID doesn’t make its hearings or decisions public unless the parties agree (although it does publish its legal reasoning and a list of cases).

UNCITRAL, the other major system, was so concerned at the lack of transparency that it changed its rules recently. They now say that decisions must be published, hearings should be public, and third parties (such as NGOs) can make arguments in the case. But this only applies to new investment treaties, and countries can agree to leave this part of the rules out.

Where the new rules don’t apply, “the very existence of a dispute can be kept secret if both parties so wish”. The EU has included the new UNCITRAL rules on transparency, with some modification, in a draft treaty with Canada that’s similar to TTIP.

How many are there?

While the rules on transparency make it hard to be exact about the volume of ISDS cases, campaigners often make claims about how many are taken by investors, and how frequently they succeed.

The most comprehensive breakdown of known cases is held by a United Nations agency, which tells us that they frequently revise and update their records.

At the time of writing, the database showed 608 cases launched between 1987 (when the first was recorded) and the end of 2014. The number has increased markedly in recent years, with 2013 seeing 59 new claims recorded—the highest number ever in a single year.

The increase in ISDS cases can, at least in part, be explained by the volumes of foreign direct investment over the same period, with the growth in ISDS cases and in outward investment following a similar trend.


Where do they come from?

ISDS claims typically come from companies based in relatively rich countries; the respondents are more likely to be poorer nations. Investors from the EU and US account for three-quarters of all claims.

Although no ISDS cases between the US and an EU-15 country have been identified, there have been a small number between the US and newer EU member states.

Overall, the UN records that EU member states have had 131 known claims lodged against them (around one fifth of the worldwide total). The most frequent respondents have historically been Argentina, Venezuela, the Czech Republic and Egypt.

It’s been argued that the most targeted countries are also those which score poorly in terms of legal quality. For instance, Argentina and Venezuela are currently ranked 143rd and 144th (out of 144) in the World Economic Forum’s index of “Efficiency of legal framework in challenging regulations”.

That situation seems to be changing, though. In 2014, 40% of all new claims were brought against rich countries, and a quarter were between an EU investor and another EU country (11 out of 42).

What are the outcomes?

At the end of 2014, 405 known ISDS cases had reached a resolution. The state won in 36% of these, while most of the rest were either decided in favour of the investor (27%) or settled (26%). Settled cases will typically involve the state paying an amount it is satisfied with, but the exact terms aren’t published.

To date there have been 16 cases against EU countries in which the tribunal awarded compensation to the investor, while another 13 were settled.

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Only two ISDS challenges have ever been brought against the UK. The outcome of one is unknown; the other claim, against the UK and France over the Channel Tunnel, was partially successful. The companies involved were reportedly awarded compensation of around €24 million, although we don’t currently know how much, if any, of that the British government paid.

The debate about whether it should be included in TTIP is ongoing. The European Parliament has recommended that “the inclusion of any form of private arbitration courts in TTIP must be ruled out”.

The EU Trade Commissioner has expressed support for a permanent court to replace the ISDS procedure, and wants TTIP to allow for appeals and changes to how arbitrators are selected. This will have to be negotiated with the Americans over the next few months.

Update 07/08/2015

We originally said that the UK had lost neither of the ISDS cases taken against it, on the basis of a UN database. This was incorrect; in fact, a compensation award was made against the UK and France jointly in one case. We’ve updated our article, and our graph of results, to reflect this.

TTIP: a corporate lobbying paradise

Which businesses are pushing most for the proposed EU-US trade deal TTIP? Who’s influencing EU negotiators? Corporate Europe Observatory’s eight new info-graphics reveal the corporate lobby behind the TTIP talks.


When preparing the mandate for the negotiations on TTIP, and in the first important months of the talks themselves (January 2012 to February 2014), the European Commission’s trade department (DG Trade) had 597 behind-closed-door meetings with lobbyists to discuss the negotiations, according to internal Commission files obtained via access to information requests. 528 of those meetings (88%) were with business lobbyists while only 53 (9%) were with public interest groups. So, for every meeting with a trade union or consumer group, there were 10 with companies and industry federations. The rest of the meetings were with other actors such as public institutions and academics. In total, DG Trade met 288 lobby groups in the early phase of the TTIP talks – 250 of them from the private sector (Check the full data and how we gathered it here).

There is evidence that DG Trade actively encouraged the involvement of corporate lobbyists, while keeping pesky trade unionists and other public interest groups at bay. For example, in autumn 2012, DG Trade chased pesticide lobby group ECPA to participate in the then-ongoing public consultation on TTIP. As “the European crop protection/pesticides industry, is one of the key sectors we would be looking at in terms of improving the framework for business,” a DG Trade emailed ECPA, their contribution “would be most welcome”. The official added: “A substantial contribution from your side, ideally sponsored by your US partner, would thus be vital to start identifying opportunities of closer cooperation and increased compatibility”. ECPA responded a few weeks later, together with its US sister organisation CropLife America, demanding “significant harmonisation” for pesticide residues in food. Trade unions, environmentalists, and consumer groups did not receive such special invites.

DG Trade’s responses to contributions to the public consultations also differed greatly. While trade unionists received a standard confirmation receipt, business lobbyists were invited to initiate follow-up meetings with negotiators. The Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA), for example, got an email from DG Trade thanking “you for your readiness to work with us”, and offering a meeting, “to discuss about your proposal, ask for clarification and consider next steps”. Again, public interest groups did not receive this special treatment.

BusinessEurope and the US Chamber of Commerce, two of the most powerful pro-TTIP lobby groups, also had a follow-up meeting in November 2012, after responding to one of the Commission consultations on TTIP. On the table: their proposal for “regulatory cooperation”, a “potential game changer” which would allow business lobbyists to “co-write regulation”, as they put it. At the table: officials from DG Trade, but also DG Enterprise and the General Secretariat of the Commission. The atmosphere was clearly friendly. And the Commission stressed its desire to work closely with the two business lobbies to refine the proposal (renewed in another meeting with BusinessEurope in February 2013 where the Commission noted the importance of EU industry “submitting detailed ‘Transatlantic’ proposals to tackle regulatory barriers”1). A year later, the EU negotiation position for regulatory cooperation in TTIP was leaked. The demands of the US Chamber and BusinessEurope had been largely accommodated – one example showing that, while the number of lobby encounters does not have a simple correlation with levels of influence, it is an indicator, and these encounters do pay off.

Another example of the formidable alliance between EU negotiators and the corporate sector is the enthusiasm in the financial lobby community for the EU’s approach on financial regulation in TTIP. When the EU’s position on the issue was leaked in early 2014, Richard Normington, Senior Manager of the Policy and Public Affairs team at TheCityUK – a key British financial lobby group – applauded the Commission’s proposals, because it “reflected so closely the approach of TheCityUK that a bystander would have thought it came straight out of our brochure on TTIP”.

So, clearly, the close involvement of business lobbyists in drawing up the EU’s position for the TTIP talks is a result of the privileged access granted to them by DG Trade. Despite her PR to the contrary, this practice hasn’t changed significantly under the new Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, as the next info-graphic shows.

1. European Commission (2013): Brief report – BusinessEurope US Network meeting, 21 February 2013, dated 22 February 2013. Obtained through access to documents requested under the information disclosure regulation. On file with CEO.

European Parliamentsafeguards health in TTIP, says No to ‘business as usual’ ISDS

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