Time and again, attempts have been made within the framework of trade and investment agreements to curtail government options as regards to regulations in the public interest. Concerning the EU trade policy review by the European Commission, it should be made clear that public services have to be excluded from trade agreements.
We are pleased to invite to an online meeting on “GATS reloaded: securing the public interest in global trade in services negotiations”, organised by EPSU, AK EUROPA and ÖGB Europabüro.
On 5 May 2020, 23 EU Member States signed an agreement for the termination of intra-EU Bilateral Investment Treaties – an important step towards a fairer Internal Market. However, Austria is one of only four countries that do not participate in the common agreement, which at last will put a stop to the controversial special suing rights for investors.
Following the United Kingdom’s official withdrawal from the European Union at the end of January 2020, the negotiations on a future trade agreement started on Monday, 2nd March. The Chamber of Labour is determined: BREXIT must not be at the expense of the workforce!
On Wednesday, 12 February 2020, the EU Parliament ratified the controversial Trade and Investment Agreement with Vietnam. However, simultaneously, the example of Cambodia demonstrates how hesitantly the EU acts with regard to imposing sanctions as a response to human rights violations. Meanwhile, 847,000 Europeans advocate an end of the ISDS system and the special suing rights for corporations associated with it.
Over the coming weeks, the European Parliament, first the Trade Committee and then the plenary of all MEPs, will decide on the planned trade and investment protection agreement of the EU with Vietnam. However, in a joint letter AK President, Renate Anderl, and ÖGB President, Wolfgang Katzian, have already warned MEPs against the serious consequences of the planned agreements.
Every year, EU member states are sued in the billions by investors for important regulations in the fight against climate change or for protective measures for consumers, workers and health. The planned agreements between the EU and Vietnam would aggravate this situation and would not make a positive contribution either to the Green Deal nor to the goal of a fair globalisation policy. On the contrary, the member states’ political room for manoeuvre will be restricted and corporate rights further enforced.
For a conference at the European Parliament, the GUE/NGL faction invited representatives from both areas affected by the negotiations to exchange views. It became clear that trade unions, environmental organisations and human rights NGOs from both sides of the Atlantic reject the agreement. The reasons for this are manifold, but everyone agrees: the planned EU-MERCOSUR Trade Agreement is a threat to people and nature.
For decades, companies have been deploying the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) to sue 55 Member States in investor state dispute settlement proceedings for amounts running into billions if these, due to (environmental) laws, risked reducing their chances of making profit. The Energy Charter Treaty in particular precludes the fight against the climate crisis and the necessary conversion to CO2 neutral energy, like the phase-out of oil and coal.
During a trade policy workshop on 19th November 2019, experts discussed how trade agreements put public services at risk and what options there are to align trade policy in such a way that sustainable and public services can be guaranteed for all. The workshop, jointly organised by the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), AK EUROPA, the Austrian Trade Union Federation Europe office (ÖGB) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), thus linked experts across national and European borders.