The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has hit a major stumbling block, with the announcement that France will not sign it in its current form and Germany has grave concerns over a section known as the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS).
Minister of Foreign Trade, Matthais Fekl, told the French Senate that “France did not want the ISDS to be included in the negotiation mandate. We have to preserve the right of the state to set and apply its own standards, to maintain the impartiality of the justice system and to allow the people of France, and the world, to assert their values," according to an article on the EurActiv website.
It is this very section, the ISDS that has also led critics of the project to claim that the NHS would be opened up further to corporation takeover, whether the government of the day welcomed it or not, for the ISDS would allow corporations to challenge legislation that they claim would be putting a brake upon profits. The US is loath cut this section but it seems that Germany is not going to sign any agreement that contains ISDS.
Quite right too in my opinion. TTIP is more than a look at tariffs between trading nations: it is a massive unification of regulations across vast trading zones. Although there is a lot of potential upside – for the UK alone this is estimated at £10 billion a year, it is important too that governments are able to keep control over their own legislation – this should not become a battlefield for lawyers. Surrendering of sovereignty to corporations is unacceptable.
A lot depends on the TTIP negotiations: at this time in the UK economy an estimated 3.5 million jobs are linked to the EU, and that number will only increase if TTIP goes through. I want to see that happen, but it is also correct for both Germany and France to highlight the threat to both sovereignty and therefore democracy that this contained within ISDS.
The TTIP negotiations also show how wrong-headed and muddled the views of UKIP and the Conservative right are on Europe. Outside the EU, we would not be part of the negotiations and would have no influence upon their outcome. Should a Britain outside the EU seek to join the TTIP group, it would be on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.
My view is that the UK can benefit greatly if TTIP is secured, and that we should be backing the views of France and Germany on ISDS. Trade is good: having corporations being able to dictate legislation, not so much.