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Green Liberal Democrats - Party Leadership Election Environmental Q&A 4) TTIP and ISDS

June 20, 2015 6:30 PM
By Tim Farron and Norman Lamb

The Green Liberal Democrats have sent the two leadership candidates a series of questions, to inform party members, through their responses, about their green credentials.

In the run up to our annual conference in Manchester on June 27th, we will be publishing their answers, one question at a time.

Q4. How will you influence the EU to ensure that the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are transparent? How will you address the implications of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), in so far as it restricts the EU and its member states from making environmental regulations and legislation?

Tim FarronTim Farron

Norman Lamb Norman Lamb

Trade negotiations are conducted at the EU level, so it's the European Parliament, not the House of Commons, that has the major role to play. I've already been in touch with Catherine Bearder MEP over this, and we are determined to ensure that the negotiations are as transparent as possible and that the outcome supports rather than undermines high levels of environmental and consumer protection.

I have come to the view that an ISDS agreement is not needed between two parties with mature legal systems. I really can't see the case for ISDS in any international trade agreement between countries where the rule of law basically applies - it was really designed to protect foreign investments in countries with weak forms of governance where the government might decide to expropriate investments at any point. EU member states and the US have decent systems of law which provide sufficient protection; I don't believe we should be setting up special courts to treat investors differently from anyone else.

The TTIP embodies so much of what is good, and also so much of what is bad, about the EU. On the one hand, we should celebrate the fact that countries on both sides of the Atlantic are coming together to agree transparent and fair standards for free international trade. But it is also immensely frustrating that so much of the early stages in deciding Europe's priorities for the deal were carried out in secret. I simply don't accept the argument that agreeing these priorities in public would somehow have undermined our negotiating position. It is much more important that our position should have the democratic legitimacy of meaningful public participation. On ISDSs, one of our fundamental beliefs as liberals must be the principle that no one - not even the government - is above the law. Where government acts arbitrarily or unfairly against an individual, that individual must be able to defend themselves. And the same principle must apply for organisations and businesses - large or small - that are treated unfairly by governments. But ISDSs in the form that currently exists are clearly flawed - the current process of secret tribunals leaves too much power in the hands of multinational corporations. Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder, and Liberal MEPs across Europe, are campaigning to replace ISDS secret tribunals with a transparent and accountable public investment court with independently-appointed judges. We must make the case in Britain for other parties in Europe to support these reforms to ensure we have a system that is democratic and fair.