It is important to realise that although we are talking about TTIP, other trade agreements that are exactly like TTIP have already been finished. These include the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement, the EU-South Korea free trade agreement and the EU-Canada free trade agreement. These contain the investor state dispute settlement and have the same threat to standards, food safety and workers' standards. Even if we scrapped TTIP, any American company could set up an office in Singapore, Vietnam or Canada and all our fears about TTIP would become real through those agreements.
On 13 May, the Council of Ministers of the European Union will be asked to vote on the text of the comprehensive economic trade agreement between the EU and Canada. The European Commission is convinced that this is what it called an exclusive competence trade deal, which means there is absolutely no need to have a vote in any of the 28 member state parliaments. In order for the 28 Ministers dealing with trade to disagree with this, there must be unanimity among all 28 trade Ministers and it is unlikely that it will happen. There will be a qualified majority vote on 13 May and the comprehensive economic trade agreement with the ISDS will be approved. That will come from a representation of 16 countries and 65% of the population. The European Parliament will then be asked to vote on the text, probably before the end of July. This is where we must focus our concerns.
With regard to ISDS and small businesses, the Bavarian Spar shops have come out against TTIP. They want to be able to sell particular brands and types of German meat products made in that part of the country. They do not want to sell the products made in Vietnam, Mexico or America. The German equivalent of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association has come out against it because it read the relevant documents provided by civil society.
I will give the committee an example of these investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms. Some 95% of all the money paid out across the globe in the past 50 years as a result of these investor-state dispute settlement resolutions has gone to corporations with an annual turnover of more than $100 billion. These corporations have a success rate of 71%. Smaller companies - those with approximately $1 billion in annual turnover - have a success rate of only 58%. There is absolutely no evidence provided by the European Commission or the Government to demonstrate how - given that the average cost of an ISDS is $8 million - this might help smaller producers. If Mick and Mary's jam company tries to get the contract to provide jam to the California State Board of Education's schools and the latter decides to use an American company instead, Mick and Mary may decide to fight the decision on the basis that theirs is a small and medium-sized Irish jam producer. In reality, however, is such a company really going to risk $8 million in legal costs to sue the American Government? The answer is "No".
The ISDS is exclusively a mechanism for multi-billion dollar corporations. There are many documents written by eminent legal scholars which show that the ISDS overturns all the principles of democratic accountability. In the European Commission's very detailed proposal for the replacement of the ISDS - called the investment court system, ICS - the people who are being asked to go on a panel of arbitrators do not need to have ever practised as a judge, they just have qualified as a judge. These are not pan-European qualifications so while a person may qualify as a judge in Slovenia, he or she may not qualify in Ireland. The Commission proposes that these judges will be paid €2,000 per month. Does the committee know any senior legal professionals who survive on €24,000 per year? I think not. Interestingly, if this panel of would-be judge arbitrators is called upon to arbitrate in an ICS dispute, they will be paid €3,000 per day. Again, this overturns a centuries old idea of the independence of a judiciary where it does not matter to the judge whether the plaintiff or the defendant wins the case because the members of said judiciary hold solid, secure, permanent and well-paid positions. The ICS proposal from the Commission means that it is in the arbitrators' short-term financial interest to make cases last as long as possible and to ensure that corporations win cases so that more cases will be brought.
In addition, one week the legal teams could be working for a fracking corporation which is suing the Canadian Government for banning fracking and the next week they could be on panels as arbitrators whose job it is to decide on an American company which plans to sue France - which has already introduced a ban on fracking - as soon as the TTIP is enacted. This arbitrator could have been a lawyer arguing for a corporation that is suing a government in respect of environmental legislation and then, three weeks later, he or she could be acting as an arbitrator in an environmental case. The only person who is allowed to decide whether there is a conflict of interest is the person who is proposed as the president of the ICS. That individual will be a political appointee and he or she will be appointed by the President of the European Commission. He or she will be the only one who will decide whether there is a conflict of interest.
The other thing we are missing completely with this new generation of trade agreements is that they are not agreements, they are revolve around investment, regulation and democracy. We have incredible examples from around the world where Veolia - which operates in the west of Ireland with private business water customers and holds a 50% share in Dublin's Luas - successfully sued the Egyptian Government for having the temerity to introduce a minimum wage. Egypt backed down at the last minute. Another example is the Government of Argentina which said "We will give this privatisation a go with our water". After two years, the water was undrinkable and unaffordable. The Government of Argentina said the company had to fix the problems and Veolia said it was not going to fix it, that it was a private company and that the Government had no business interfering with it. The company was kicked out of the country and Veolia successfully sued for $186 million by means of an ISDS.
We want developing countries to rise to the standards of Europe. Europe is the beacon of light to which the world aspires. We are the longest living, most well fed, well educated, literate people in the world, not just today but in all of human history. We have the highest levels of workers' protection, the highest environmental standards and the best public services. We want developing countries to rise to our standards. If it becomes an unnecessarily restrictive or overly burdensome barrier to trade to insist on high regulations of water quality or workers' rights or the banning of particular chemicals - and we are in the business of dumbing down our regulations - how can we ever expect the developing world to have a hope of rising to our level?
All the bodies in the United Nations that have studied the ISDS phenomenon in fine detail are vociferous in saying it overturns the principle of an independent judiciary and elevates private companies to the status of sovereign states, and higher, to the point that when governments intend to introduce regulations they have to consider the profits of private companies. We have numerous examples around the world where that has been overturned. On looking closer there is a range of articles that need to be read in tandem with the ICS proposals from the European Commission, while if one takes a clause here or there it appears that governments have the right to regulate. They will have the right to regulate and then be sued and pay billions of dollars in compensation for unearned future income that a private company reckons it will not earn as a result of the regulations being put in place.