Speaking on Monday at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg Geraint Davies said;
“The Council of Europe must shine a bright light on the proposed EU-US free trade agreement – the so-called transatlantic trade and investment partnership – as it challenges our very core principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The rules for settling investor-state disputes, the rules by which multinationals can sue democratically elected governments for passing laws to protect their own citizens are, as we speak, being concocted by big corporations behind closed doors.
“In essence, if democratically elected governments want to protect their citizens’ health with measures on smoking, sugar or fat or to protect their welfare rights or to shift the balance between nationalised and privatised utilities, they can be sued in arbitration panels that are hidden from public view under rules conjured up by the dark arts of corporate lawyers to protect profits instead of people.
“We see, for example, tobacco giant Philip Morris, whose cigarettes have killed countless people, suing Uruguay and Australia over anti-smoking laws that require warning labels or plain packaging for cigarettes. We saw Dutch insurer Achmea suing Slovakia because it reversed health privatisation policies. We see US fracking company Lone Pine wanting $250 million compensation from Canada owing to Quebec’s moratorium on fracking, and we see that Argentina has already paid more than $1 billion in compensation to US and French companies for freezing utility rates for energy and water.
“If political parties such as the Labour party in the United Kingdom want to freeze energy prices or have a one-off tax on privatised utilities such as the Royal Mail or renationalise the railways or tax fizzy drinks to protect people’s health, it needs to realise that the big corporations are preparing to sue it through investor-state disputes. In other words, these corporations threaten our very core values such as democracy as they intimidate and financially punish the will of the people.
“They also threaten the human rights, health and safety at work, social security and fair working conditions in our social charter and the rule of law itself, as investor-state disputes are decided in the shadow of darkness by arbitration panels, not under the shining light of justice in open court.
“We may all welcome the shared fruits of trade, but let that not be at the expense of the social and economic justice our democracies demand.”
Following his speech the Swansea West MP lobbied for other MPs from across Europe to support him. Politicians from France, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland and others joined MPs from the UK including former Lib Dem Leader Charles Kennedy signing Geraint Davies motion which states;
“We the undersigned note that the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership includes investor-state disputes settlements that are being designed in secret so enabling multi-national companies to intimidate and sue government for lost profits due to Government policies designed to protect the public as consumers or workers or to change the live of public ownership; that such settlements will be decided in private by arbitration panels not in open court; that such action and arrangements threaten to compromise our established democracy, human rights and rule of law; that the shared fruits of trade should not be at the expense of the social and economic justice that our democracy demands; therefore, we call upon the Assembly to ensure that all proposed arrangements are fully scrutinised within our committee structures and no arrangements are made which compromise our founding principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.