09:29 GMT23 October 2020
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    Independent UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Alfred-Maurice de Zayas has branded the controversial EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a "grand global casino where investors rig the system to guarantee that they always win."

    Speaking at the Human Rights Council 30th Session, de Zayas hit out at the proposed transatlantic trade deal between the US and the EU, which would open up each other's markets in the biggest trade agreements in the world.

    At its heart is a controversial proposal for an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which would allow companies to sue governments if their regulations or laws affected their profits.

    Thus, if a US multinational company lost profits because their product or service was banned by law for health or other reasons. Critics believe large multinational companies — which have been lobbying hard for the TTIP — will force through a trade agreement that would reduce the ability of democratically-elected politicians to regulate the market. De Sayas said:

    "Allowing three private arbitrators to disregard international and national law as well as the judgments of the highest State Tribunals is tantamount to a revolution against law, it is retrogression in terms of legality and predictability, a no-man's land of arbitrary arbitrations."

    He also said:

    "…[the ISDS] has proven to be a Trojan horse and mutated into a privatized system of dispute settlement, outside and contrary to article 14, paragraph 1, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires that all suits at law be decided by independent tribunals which must respect the principles of transparency and accountability."

    Anti-TTIP demonstration
    © Flickr / Global Justice Now
    Anti-TTIP demonstration

    He said many of the arbitration awards under the existing US ISDS system "have overridden national law and hindered States in the sovereign determination of fiscal and budgetary policy, labor, health and environmental regulation, and have had adverse human rights impacts, also on third parties, including a 'chilling effect' with regard to the exercise of democratic governance."

    Lack of Transparency

    He also took a shot at the negotiations which have been criticized as being too secretive and mobbed by corporate lobbyists on behalf of the major multinational companies keen to ensure there is less regulation.

    "States must ensure that all trade and investment agreements — existing and future — represent the democratic will of the populations concerned. Negotiations on current drafts must not be secret or "fast-tracked", but, on the contrary, should be accompanied by pro-active consultation and broad public participation on the basis of independent human rights, health and environmental impact assessments," he said.

    French trade minister Mathias Fekl in September criticized the TTIP negotiations for being "not transparent" warning the talks could come to an end. Fekl said the talks could stumble because of US intransigence, and said France is growing impatient and warned of the talks breaking down.

    Fekl told the French newspaper Sud Ouest:

    "US parliamentarians have access to many more documents than European parliamentarians.

    "Europe made multiple offers, on all issues, and in return got no serious offer for the Americans, neither on access to their public procurements, nor on access to agricultural and food-processing markets, which remain closed."

    De Sayas said: "States must ensure that all trade and investment agreements recognize the primacy of human rights and specify that, in case of conflict, human rights obligations prevail."

    The fact that a respected UN expert has hit out at the lack of transparency and the threat to human rights in such strong terms is telling, but unlikely to stop the political momentum of the negotiations which the US want completed by the year end.

    Related:

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    Over 100 Detained in Brussels at Anti-TTIP Protest Ahead of EU Summit
    French Trade Minister Slams Secrecy Over TTIP Deal
    Tags:
    casino, trade deal, investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), democracy, transparency, market, civil rights, negotiations, trade secrets, business, human rights, food, environment, agriculture, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), United Nations, United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Europe, United States
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