On 10th June the European Parliament will vote on a report on TTIP. We will not be voting on TTIP itself - negotiations for a EU-US trade deal are still ongoing and expected to last several years.
Once we have a final agreement the European Parliament will have a binding vote on TTIP, but we are several years away from this.
In the meantime, the European Parliament can make its position known to the Commission. This is what we want to see included in any trade agreement, and what we want explicitly excluded. Last October the Socialist and Democrat Group in the European Parliament, of which Labour MEPs are a member, decided MEPs should adopt a report outlining our priorities and demands to the Commission. We had a tough time convincing conservatives and liberals to agree – and consensus is always needed in the European Parliament to get things adopted.
We pushed very hard on the negotiations for the report and we made fantastic achievements when the report was voted in the International Trade committee on 28th May. Against the wishes of the right-wing, we managed to get included demands that call on the Commission to include a binding sustainable development chapter for social and environmental standards. We clearly stated we want to see core International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions ratified and enforced for workers' rights on both sides of the Atlantic. We said our standards including food and the environment must be protected. And we said public services – all public services, regardless of how they are financed - must be excluded from the deal. You can read the full report here.
One of the most difficult issues to negotiate was investor-state dispute settlement, known as ISDS. This is a mechanism to allow investors and governments to resolve disputes in a secret tribunal with corporate lawyers acting as arbitrators and nothing disclosed to the public. This is unacceptable for Labour MEPs and we have been campaigning for years to have it scrapped – see my article here for example. We negotiated a text which was acceptable but not ideal. It calls for both the EU and US to trust each other's legal systems and to use public and transparent dispute resolution with no secret courts or corporate lawyers as judges. We compromised on this text by not explicitly spelling out this meant no ISDS, because anything stronger in the report would have given conservatives and liberals (who are in the majority) an excuse to vote down the whole report in the committee stage. This would have stopped the Parliament making any demands on the Commission at all on TTIP.
For the full Parliament vote on 10th June Labour MEPs along with our sister party colleagues in the Socialist and Democrat Group are tabling a stronger amendment to remove all doubt – we do not want ISDS in TTIP. We will be working to build a majority for this amendment so that the Parliament adopts a report and sends a clear signal to the Commission - not just on ISDS but on workers' rights, public services and our standards. The Commission will have to take this report into account while they negotiate TTIP because eventually MEPs will have the final say on TTIP. If it doesn't reflect our priorities, we will not support it.