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Monday, September 29, 2014

Malmström impresses in her hearing, but is she on the same page as Juncker on TTIP?

Cecilia Malmström during her hearing today
The European Parliament kicked off its hearings of Commission nominees today, with most of the attention focused on Sweden's Cecilia Malmström, the current Home Affairs Commissioner who has been handed the hugely important Trade portfolio. The hearing was eagerly anticipated due to the controversy around certain aspects of the EU-Canada (CETA) and EU-US (TTIP) free trade deals; specifically around investor safeguard clauses (ISDS).

Indeed, the hearing managed to make waves in Germany (where the issue is particularly sensitive), after Malmström's written response to initial questions from MEPs suggested that she rejected the need for ISDS in TTIP. German Green MEP Sven Giegold posted the relevant section on his website:
As the President-elect Juncker has committed himself to in his Political Guidelines..."no limitation of the jurisdiction of courts in the EU Member States will be accepted in [TTIP]; this clearly means that no Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism will be part of that agreement."
However, this version - sent out to MEPs on Friday - was subsequently re-called, and the new version published on the Commission's website now reads:
As the President-elect Juncker has committed himself to in his Political Guidelines... he will "not accept that the jurisdiction of courts in the EU Member States is limited by special regimes for investor disputes."
In other words, a clear change from ruling out ISDS altogether to a much more qualified acceptance. This change was subject to much speculation on Twitter, and Malmström herself claimed it was "simply the wrong version".

However, at today's hearing, Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake claimed that the Microsoft Word version sent out on Friday contained 'track changes' made by none other than Martin Selmayr, Jean-Claude Juncker's chief of staff (seemingly confirming rumours in Brussels about Selmayr's "Rasputin-like qualities"). Malmström replied that she had agreed to Juncker's office inserting a quote from Juncker and tried to brush off the affair as a "misunderstanding" and an "over-interpretation", basically denying that she and Juncker were at odds over the ISDS question.

In her opening remarks and in answers to questions, Malmström strongly endorsed the principle of free trade and TTIP specifically, which rather dominated the debate, while also defending European social and environmental standards (there is always something for everyone in the European Parliament). On ISDS, she defended the principle, while clarifying that she was committed to transparency and qualifications - such as protections for national parliaments to legislate in the national interest. She claimed that there was no need to renegotiate ISDS in CETA, as without it the deal could fall apart, that the EU itself would want to include ISDS in future agreements with other parties, but added that possibly it could be excluded altogether from TTIP - so far from a coherent line overall.

Malmström put in a solid performance - with the right mixture of assertiveness and reassurance - and it is certainly good to have a pro-trade voice in that role. However, as the shenanigans over her written answers demonstrate, there are questions over whether Malmström and Juncker are on the same page on TTIP.


Jesper said...

"special regimes for investor disputes" indeed.

Imagine if a citizen was given the same right as an investor under ISDS:

A law that caused a citizen to make a loss would be sufficient reason for the State Dispute Settler to step in i.e.:
-No more tax increases
-No more cuts in welfare
-No increase in fees for access of public services
etc, etc

Either the investor is subject to the laws of the state or it is not. ISDS puts the investor on equal footing with the state and therefore the investor is no longer subject to the laws of the state.

Might as well drop the pretense of having laws to bind the strong, ISDS will be using laws to bind the weak.

As for the benefits of TTIP:
-jobs will be both gained and lost in the EU. Net will be a loss.
-jobs will be both gained and lost in the US. Net will be a loss.

Therefore TTIP is the wrong solution for the situation of today.

Imagine if an employment dispute would be made as difficult to handle as an investor dispute... No more reforms of the job-market.

R Davis said...

TTIP is a proposed free trade agreement between the EU & the US.
FORE - say that the agreement will result in multilateral economic growth.
Critics - say it would increase & monopolize corporate power inhibiting government regulation for public benefit.

R Davis said...

an adjunct to my previous comment.

The EU & the US can write up & sign - thereby locking in all the agreements they like.... & even include Santa Clause
There is something called
who must sign off on all matters pertaining to & thereof or they are null & void in the eyes of common law & our nation.

You think not .../?
I assure you ...

Anonymous said...

Are these the same multinational "investors" who :

1. Dodge their taxes and play NO part in contributing to state coffers?

2. Who outsource jobs to the cheapest location (i.e. not in the EU), thereby leaving many jobless?

It seems to me that you have to "pay to play" and that no investor, no matter how big, can be as powerful as the state. Globalisation has failed as far as western economies are concerned and the large multinationals have proved themselves to have no ethics or sense of community.

It is all so short-sighted as all they have done is to cannibalise their most successful markets.

Sovereign states belong to individuals and not large companies.

I say NO to TTIP.


Rik said...

Malmstrom is imho one of the most unappealing EUistanists.
She simply looks like a 80s left (know everything better) politician.
Simply the kind that is disliked by a large majority of the voters. A bit like a female Nordic equivalent of your Milliband.

This is even worse as in the EU world contact with the population (via the media) is very limited.
A guy like Schultz does it really well from a German perspective. However from a European perspective it is rubbish of the worst kind. Simply totally unappealing.

An organisation that has a problem with its clientele simply cannot afford people like that representing them. First impression is horrible and if a second one ever would come it is too limited/short to correct that.