14 Dec

EU-Vietnam Agreement: Trade Pact without private courts – it’s possible

Monday, 14 December, 2015


Anti-TTIP Protest Rally (in Wiesbaden): A First Success

What the EU has not yet been able to conclude with the USA, will be agreed with Vietnam in this week. The President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker plans to receive Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Tan Dung in Brussels on Wednesday, where European Commissioner of Trade Cecilia Malmström will sign a free trade agreement with the Southeast Asian nation.

What’s special: for the first time in history the contract contains paragraphs on investor protection, which serve as example also in the negotiations with the USA on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement TIPP.

The EU has decided upon the proceedings in response to massive criticism from TIPP opponents. A public two-step judicial system with independent judges is supposed to settle conflicts between nations and foreign investors. This new process shall replace the private ad-hoc courts of arbitration that meet on a secret basis, and which have been agreed upon in many trade agreements. Their jurisdiction often used to be to the disadvantage of the weaker trade partner.

For that reason, also the Vietnamese are very satisfied with the new offer negotiated with the EU, which would have hardly been possible without the anti-TIPP movement. Furthermore, it is explicitly mentioned that nation states maintain the right to issue also such laws which may disadvantage private investors.

The new investor protection of the EU is supposed to be submitted before christmas during the running TIPP negotiations also to the USA. Apart from that, the EU further focuses on the Far East. The pact with Vietnam shall not remain the only one. Respective negotiations are underway also with Japan and the Philippines.

The United States have recently closed the TPP trade agreement with countries of the Pacific Rim, such as Vietnam. US-President Barack Obama, however, has difficulties getting consent from the Congress.

According to Bernd Lange, the chairperson of the Trade Committee at the EU Parliament, similar problems are not to be expected at the EU Parliament. “The agreement with the Vietnamese is good”, he added. The delegate of German party SPD is pleased in particular by the fact that a comprehensive chapter on employees and employment has been incorporated. Lange hopes that this may lead to the development of independent unions in Vietnam.

A majority at the EU Parliament requests a subsequent improvement in view of investor protection in the Ceta trade agreement which has already been negotiated with Canada. Malmström is looking into possibilities to integrate the demand without having to renegotiate the complete Ceta contract.

The government of the newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already signalized readiness to talk. Canada, too, had bad experiences with US firms that sued the country for new environmental laws.

By Christoph Pauly






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