New Internationalist

German judges issue damming indictment of TTIP

isds-just-got-judged.png [Related Image]

If you’re worried about our sovereignty read the judges’ statement, writes Nick Dearden.

A group of German judges have just dealt a serious blow to the European Commission’s desperate TTIP ‘compromise’. They’ve issued a damning indictment on the proposal for an ‘international investment court’, which the EU Commission hoped would get them out of the deep mess that the TTIP negotiations are in.

To recap: millions of people across Europe have expressed outrage at the proposal in the US-EU trade deal – known as TTIP – for a corporate court system which allows foreign corporations to sue governments in secret arbitration panels. Formally known as the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), the corporate courts are already being used in countless other treaties to sue governments for anything from raising the minimum wage to protecting the environment.

So the EU trade commissioner Malmström came up with a ‘compromise’. Rather than operating an ad hoc corporate court system, she wants to set up a proper, permanent international court for investors, with proper judges and more transparency. The problem, of course, is that this simply lends a whiff of legitimacy to a system which puts the profits of corporations ahead of the rights of ordinary people.

But the #noTTIP campaigners feared the compromise might win a few important votes over in the European Parliament. Thank heavens, therefore, for the Germany’s biggest association of judges, who’ve injected some sense into the discussion. Their statement ‘rejects the proposal of the European Commission to establish an investment court’ saying ‘neither is there a legal basis nor the necessity’ for such a court.

A primary concern of the judges, and one shared by campaigners, is that ‘the creation of special courts for certain groups of litigants is the wrong way forward.’ Creating special legal privileges for big business and other investors (who can already afford more access to the law than ordinary people), is clearly the path to further inequality in our already deeply unequal society.

In fact, the judges question whether ‘the European Union has the competence to institute an investment court’ given that it would force member states to submit to that court, and therefore undermine their sovereignty. The court ‘would not only limit the legislative powers of the Union and the Member States; it would also alter the established court system within the Member States and the European Union.’

The judges are really clear on this point: the court would be ‘outside the institutional and judicial framework of the Union’ and would ‘deprive courts of Member States of their powers in relation to the interpretation and application of European Union law and the Court of its powers to reply.’ Anyone who says they are concerned about our sovereignty in the upcoming debate on the EU, surely has no choice but to oppose TTIP.

The judges also criticise the independence of ‘judges’ foreseen under the investor court proposal, saying ‘The pool of judges will be limited to the circle of persons already professionally predominantly engaged in international arbitration.’ In other words, the investment court merely becomes a permanent version of the ISDS system that is proving to be so unpopular. Which is exactly what campaigners are worried about.

This is a really important opinion. The judges show that the assumptions behind the corporate courts – that investors aren’t properly protected – lacks a ‘factual basis’. What’s more, even if it was the case, such concerns ‘should be taken up with the national legislature’.

Of course, this hasn’t happened. That’s because the whole point of TTIP is not to redress a genuine problem, but to rewrite the rules of the global economy in favour of big business.

A group of German judges just made that a little bit harder to do.

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  1. #1 Bamer 07 Feb 16

    Thank you judges for judgement! We must keep our sovereignty at all costs! These trade deals are nothing more than a corporate coup! If these corporations want to do business in our countries let them abide by our laws and our courts! No countries government should allow corporations to run the world, they are not people! The Idea of Profits over citizens welfare is dead. If this is passed it will cause the biggest worker sit down in the world! The sit down will not end until these horrendous trade deals are totally destroyed!

  2. #2 Danny Mayle 08 Feb 16

    Finally ! A court, a group of judges who have the honest desire to stand up to the Billionaire class along with big corporations and say NO NO NO. if we the people do not begin a movement of biblical proportions to reign in these people they will have everyone living in a state of servitude. Senator Bernie Sanders has started such a movement in the USA and he will be the next President , he has promised to not sign the TPP or any trade agreement that is a race to the bottom for the workers. If the TPP has been signed he has promised to do whatever it takes to dismantle it and rewrite the horrible deals that IGNOR workers wages and safety, Golbal Climate Change, make them pay there fair share of taxes and break up the big banks that are too big to fail. Support Bernie Sanders for President and you will have the most powerful office in the world on the side of people, regardless of race, gender or where you come from.

  3. #3 waaka nene jnr rountree 08 Feb 16

    Well done EU judges, if our legal system in New Zealand follows your example (sadly I doubt will happen), the writers of these agreements will have to be more transparent, and the trade minister's should resign their posts along with all senior ministers that push these agreements.

    Waaka Nene Jnr Rountree

  4. #4 Dr David Hill 18 Mar 16

    The TTIP is a corporate charter to increase profits for the largest corporations in the world, cut employment numbers in the EU and ship them to the low-cost economies of the world as usually happens with vast trade deals and to get people to pay more for goods and services. Indeed, no major so-called trade deal to date has cut costs and in difference, has increased them.

    The TTIP will also destroy the NHS, as the treaty is clear, 'Monopolies cannot exist in free trade and what is the NHS, the largest monopoly in within the EU, in the eyes of the EU. Therefore say goodbye to the NHS once this treaty is signed and in a relatively short period of time.

    For all EU business will be hit by the overriding control of the US - TTIP: Big business and US to have major say in EU trade deals, leak reveals -

    'The TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) will be an Absolute Disaster for the People of the EU (European Union) and the People of America (USA) in the long-term - We simply have to Vote AGAINST this behind closed doors Transatlantic Trade deal before it is signed up and too late for the People to do anything about it' -

  5. #5 against-NWO 26 Mar 16

    hail to the corporate state....the Nazi's used government to take over corporate power and now corporate power has just about succeeded in taking over the State.... one thing that is critical to remember is that the democratic government power structure is based on the voice and will of the people....the objective of the corporate-state is to weaken and eventually eliminate this inconvenient power of the populous.

    Within the corporate state the people can only function as consumers, technicians, and laborers. All power is subsumed into the corporate hierarchy and obliterates all rationality, creativity, and compassion...hence the oppression of humanity replaced by an apparatus with no conscience or relationship to true intelligence leaving a flawed future of suffering and self-destruction.

    Why is it that those who reject concentration of power into top down hierarchies, reject false leadership, and assume their own management are happiest and most creative as well as productive? Anarchy is a dirty word....however it is is not with out rules it is with out rulers....horizontal not vertical management of society. Democracy is hypocrisy if the people are not able to make their own decisions and create an intelligent society.

    pEaCe, hOpE, & rEsPeCt....for earth & all its inhabitants

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Nick Dearden a New Internationalist contributor

Nick Dearden is the director of Global Justice Now (formerly World Development Movement) and former director of Jubilee Debt Campaign.

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