So, the great European Parliament defeat of ISDS wasn’t to be. Last Wednesday, a day before Valentines Day, MEPs dutifully lined up to express their love for a deal that could turn into an unhealthy relationship – for both sides.
MEPs voted 436 to 203 in favour of the EU-Singapore Investment Protection Agreement (EUSIPA). The deal would breathe new life into ISDS by the inclusion of the Investor Court System – a rebranded, marginally improved version of the system that will form the basis of the planned Multilateral Investment Court.
Establishing such a permanent court would be an unprecedented expansion of ISDS, just when we should be killing off this dodgy system forever. There is no doubt about it. MEPs – most of them at least – have made a terrible error.
But far from losing hope though, we opponents of ISDS should be reassured that the road to ratification for EUSIPA is long and hard. It now must be backed by the legislatures of every country in the EU. In Belgium it must also be approved by the regional parliaments of Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels.
This gives us around 30 opportunities to stop the agreement. If we just win one of these we can stop EUSIPA (or at least strip it of all its ISDS teeth).
This puts the campaign to stop EUSIPA in a similar place to the push to stop CETA – the even more damaging trade and investment agreement with Canada. Both deals include promises to implement new-variant ISDS and defeating both would be a perhaps fatal blow to the whole system.
Despite the original agreement being signed in 2014 and the European Parliament backing it two years ago, CETA is still not ratified. Belgium referred the investor-protection chapter to the European Court of Justice who will rule on whether it is compatible with the EU Treaties. Austria has promised to vote the deal down it the ruling goes against CETA. And Italy is saying it might vote it down anyway (sadly this is more to do with geographic indications rather than opposition to ISDS).
But as we can see, if we make the case clearly to our national politicians, CETA and EUSIPA can both be stopped. CETA has only been ratified by a minority of countries so far and EUSIPA by none at all. No matter where you live, there is something you can do in your country to stop ISDS.
So do not be disheartened by the failure of enough of our MEPs to see the investor protection racket for what it is. Proponents of ISDS may have won this battle – but there are dozens more ahead and they have to win them ALL if they are to succeed.
If we mobilise and make the case clearly, we still have a very good chance of victory. So if you haven’t already sign the petition, share it and get in touch with your national members of parliament. We have a campaign to win.