According to the German media, the Merkel Government is rethinking the conditions for the signature of the agreement with Canada. The fear is that the warranty clauses for the investors result in the possibility for foreign multinational companies to override states. The clauses that pose a risk to the conclusion of the agreement are the same that are contained in the top secret free trade agreement between USA and EU, the TTIP. The free trade agreement between EU and Canada, known as CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), is considered by the heads of state themselves as a decisive test bench for the succeeding of the other, and much better known, commercial agreement between USA and EU, the Trans-atlantic Trade and Investiment Partnership. The conclusion, after years of negotiations, is expected to happen after September 25, when the bilateral meeting between Canada and EU will take place in Ottawa.
The most controversial aspect, which seems to animate the German resistance, is the introduction of investor-state clauses (investor-to-state dispute settlement, ISDS), that allow foreign companies to sue the state where they operate before an international arbitrator for alleged reduction of future profits. These clauses are present in both CETA and TTIP drafts. According to Germany there is no need to insert the ISDS clauses, in view of the fact that American investors are already sufficiently protected by the European courts.
Although the Commission has tried to present these clauses in the most positive way possible, by publishing a series of answers to the most pressing criticisms, it seems that the European public opinion definitely opposes them. Many actors – European trade unions, several consumer organizations, NGOs and civil society groups, some MEPs and political groups such as the European Greens and members of the Italian M5S – are taking sides against the clauses.
But, during the last months, doubts have started to rise also within the European Institutions themselves: the former Commissioner for Justice, Viviane Reding, has warned against the TTIP , and also the new President of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has expressed intense concerns.
Interesting are also the preliminary results of the public consultation on the ISDS clauses within the TTIP launched by the European Commission last March. The consultation, closed on July 31, asked the citizens and interested parties to comment on the issue. The majority of contributions came from the United Kingdom (34%), then Austria (22%) and Germany (21%), and only 0.15% from Italy. The analysis of the contributions should be published not before November 2014.
So, along with the international crisis and the open theatres of war, the TTIP dossier is definitely one of the most delicate that Federica Mogherini will have to deal with in her role of High Representative for Foreign Policy of the European Union. If successfully concluded, the trade agreement with the United States will be the largest operation made by EU over the last decade, and it will mark its future for many more ones. Mrs. Mogherini will have to carry out the difficult task of defending the negotiations and of leading them to a successful conclusion, by making them swallow to an increasingly skeptical and worried European public opinion. The hope is that, from that chair in Brussels, she will be able to ensure more transparency and participation in the decision making processes that will lead to the inevitable signature. Just a few days ago this was asked also by our Deputy Minister of Economic Development Carlo Calenda, acting as President of the European Council of Ministers of Trade, in a letter to his counterparts of the other 27 EU member states. (translation Silvia Schiavi)