rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Crucial vote on ISDS in European Parliament coming within weeks

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

The Council of Canadians and allies have lobbied at the European Parliament agai

The European Parliament's trade committee has voted to back the United States-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The resolution endorsing the agreement now goes to the full European Parliament in Strasbourg for a plenary vote expected to take place June 8-10.

In a campaign blog last month, we noted that Doru Frantescu, the director of VoteWatch Europe, writes, "Before the actual ratification vote [on major treaties], the Parliament usually votes, once or more times, [on] a non-binding resolution stating its position and the 'no go' zones, as is the case of the resolution currently being worked on in the international trade committee (INTA). ...Key provisions in the TTIP will be under heavy fire and their outcome is uncertain. Chief among these is the investor-to-state [ISDS] clause, a mechanism which allows investors to settle disputes with national governments in international courts, rather than national ones."

This week our ally War on Want reports, "MEPs also backed the European Commission's controversial proposal for an 'investor-state dispute settlement' (ISDS) system, which grants privileged powers to foreign corporations. The text presented by committee chairperson Bernd Lange at the eleventh hour dropped a key phrase rejecting the use of ISDS, and supported instead the new proposals for ISDS in TTIP introduced by EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström earlier this month. Lange was publicly criticised by other MEPs for the procedure adopted in pushing through his support for ISDS."

Notably, MEPs chose to back  Malmström's ISDS 'reforms' even though the Americans have said they do not support them. Agence France Presse has reported, "A senior US official rejected [on May 11] an EU proposal to create an international investment court that was aimed at resolving one of the disputes holding up their free trade deal. ...US Undersecretary for International Trade at the Commerce Department, Stefan Selig, noted that some so-called Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanisms already exist in international trade agreements and had not resulted in a loss of sovereignty for countries."

Reaction to the vote has been swift.

War on Want executive director John Hilary says, "Millions of people across Europe have said no to TTIP, in the strongest trade campaign we have ever seen. Yet MEPs have turned their backs on their own constituents, choosing instead to side with the business lobbyists of Brussels. This is an outright betrayal of the European people, and we shall not forget it."

Friends of the Earth Europe highlights, "More than 1.5 million people have signed a self-organised European Citizens' Initiative calling on EU decision-makers to stop the TTIP negotiations and to not ratify the EU-Canada trade deal (CETA), and no less than 97 per cent of the respondents to the European Commission's own consultation on investor-state dispute settlement have rejected special rights for investors."

And Transport & Environment trade officer Cécile Toubeau says, "We hope MEPs will mobilise to fix this resolution in plenary vote next month."

The Council of Canadians has been following this debate closely. Last month, we encouraged our supporters though this action alert to tell members of the European Parliament's trade committee that transnational corporations based in Canada would not hesitate to use the investor-state dispute settlement in CETA to challenge European measures that protect the environment, food safety and the general public interest.

A Reuters news article, posted just prior to the vote, quoted Lange saying, "The parliament will not agree to an old-fashioned ISDS, that's for sure." That "old-fashioned" ISDS provision is the one that currently exists in the Canada-EU 'deal. As noted in the War on Want media release above, Lange supported the proposals to reform the ISDS provision in TTIP suggested by EU trade commissioner Malmström (to read criticisms of those proposals, click here). So far though, Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper has refused to re-open CETA negotiations to amend the ISDS provision in the deal.

Photo: Council of Canadians

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.