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European Parliament vote on EU-U.S. 'free trade' deal postponed

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Our allies protested outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg as MEPs debat

The European Parliament could not come to an agreement this week on the United States-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). As a result, a vote that was to take place today to endorse the "free trade" talks has been postponed until sometime after the summer.

EurActiv reports, "The failure to agree on a resolution meant that the Parliament would merely debate the proposed deal in Strasbourg on Wednesday, but not hold a vote, highlighting the growing doubts in the European Union about its benefits. Negotiations [on TTIP] are still under way but, because the Parliament has the power to reject any final deal, it must set out its position during the process. EU lawmakers preparing the resolution received more than 200 proposed amendments, meaning it was highly unlikely to pass, prompting parliament president Martin Schulz to postpone the vote to avoid the public embarrassment of having the resolution defeated."

And Politico notes, "[Some parliamentarians had] trumpeted the recent approval of a fragile compromise in its International Trade Committee as a sign that negotiations could at last move forward. Although Parliament's approval is not essential at this stage, it is considered vital for the project's success. Instead, strong opposition from many members of the Socialists & Democrats group and pressure from non-governmental organizations opposed to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership made a broader agreement impossible to achieve before Wednesday's planned vote."

After European Parliament president Schulz used his authority to postpone the vote, the European Parliament also voted 183-181 to support the postponement.

Green MEP Yannick Jadot, who opposes TTIP, denounced the postponement of the vote as "lousy shenanigans." And European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) General Secretary Jan Willem Goudriaan commented, "Without guidance from the European Parliament, EU negotiator Cecilia Malmström will be in the dark about what our European elected representatives consider a fair outcome. The Commission now needs to take a step back, stop talks and before continuing, let democracy do its work. Stopping the negotiations now and waiting for the position of the European Parliament is necessary for the credibility of this European Commission which claimed it would set out to close the gap with Europe's citizens."

The EurActiv article also highlights, "Much of the discord focuses on how companies settle disputes under the pact; lawmakers fear that U.S. multinationals will challenge European laws on grounds that they restrict free commerce. ...Critics of the deal also fear it will be detrimental to food safety and the environment."

Deutsche Welle adds, "The Socialist group in the European Parliament insisted on excluding a controversial mechanism for resolving disputes with investors from the trade deal. ...The USA has insisted current arrangements are adequate but European negotiators have proposed a separate investment court. [In addition], a Europe-wide online petition against the TTIP, set up by the 'Self-organised European Citizens' Initiative Against TTIP and CETA' has raised more than 2.1 million signatures. It has claimed that TTIP and the CETA, which is a similar deal with Canada, are a 'threat to democracy, the environment, consumers and labour standards.'"

The Council of Canadians once again calls on the European Parliament to reject the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) given it also contains the controversial investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. We have argued in the report Trading Away Democracy that CETA would increase the risk to the EU and its member states of challenges by Canadian investors in the mining and oil and gas extraction sectors, that Canadian subsidiaries of US-headquartered multinationals would be able to use CETA to sue European governments, and that 'reforms' to the provision proposed by the European Commission would not prevent abuse by investors and arbitrators.

The European Parliament's Committee on International Trade meets on June 15-16 in Brussels. The text of the TTIP resolution that failed in the European Parliament yesterday will be debated next there.

Council of Canadians trade campaigner Sujata Dey will be in Brussels for the next round of TTIP negotiations this coming July 13-15. She will be there for a EU-wide civil society strategy meeting on TTIP and CETA.

For more on our campaign to stop CETA, please click here.

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