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Corporate bill of rights in EU-US trade deal

Staff writer |
Rights for multinational corporations to sue states will probably be included in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

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Those right are a political headache for EU and US negotiators, but may also set a precedent for future trade agreements, notably with China. The TTIP currently being negotiated includes "investor-state" dispute clauses empowering EU and US-based corporations to lodge private legal cases directly against governments.

The European Commission's proposal for investor-state dispute settlement under the TTIP would enable US companies investing in Europe to by-pass European courts and directly challenge governments at international tribunals, whenever they find that laws in the area of public health, environmental or social protection infringe their right to do business. EU companies investing abroad would have the same rights in the United States.

Of some 514 known investor-state disputes launched before the end of last year (2012), the biggest number came from the US (123 cases) and European countries such as the Netherlands (50), the UK (30) and Germany (27), showing that they are familiar with the procedure.

EU and US companies have used these lawsuits to challenge energy and medicine policies, anti-smoking legislation, bans on harmful chemicals and environmental restrictions on mining, amongst other sectors.

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