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Respondent details

  • Aurélie Sand
  • EU citizen
  • Country: France
  • Activity: Environnement
  • Transparency register: No
  • Prior investment in the US: No

Contribution

A. Substantive investment protection provisions

Explanation of the issue

The scope of the agreement responds to a key question: What type of investments and investors should be protected? Our response is that investment protection should apply to those investments and to investors that have made an investment in accordance with the laws of the country where they have invested.

Approach in most investment agreements

Many international investment agreements have broad provisions defining “investor” and “investment”.

In most cases, the definition of “investment” is intentionally broad, as investment is generally a complex operation that may involve a wide range of assets, such as land, buildings, machinery, equipment, intellectual property rights, contracts, licences, shares, bonds, and various financial instruments. At the same time, most bilateral investment agreements refer to “investments made in accordance with applicable law”. This reference has worked well and has allowed ISDS tribunals to refuse to grant investment protection to investors who have not respected the law of the host state when making the investment (for example, by structuring the investment in such a way as to circumvent clear prohibitions in the law of the host state, or by procuring an investment fraudulently or through bribery).

In many investment agreements, the definition of “investor” simply refers to natural and juridical persons of the other Party to the agreement, without further refinement. This has allowed in some cases so–called “shell” or “mailbox” companies, owned or controlled by nationals or companies not intended to be protected by the agreement and having no real business activities in the country concerned, to make use of an investment agreement to launch claims before an ISDS tribunal.

The EU's objectives and approach

The EU wants to avoid abuse. This is achieved primarily by improving the definition of “investor”, thus eliminating so –called “shell” or “mailbox” companies owned by nationals of third countries from the scope: in order to qualify as a legitimate investor of a Party, a juridical person must have substantial business activities in the territory of that Party.

At the same time, the EU wants to rely on past treaty practice with a proven track record. The reference to “investments made in accordance with the applicable law” is one such example. Another is the clarification that protection is only granted in situations where investors have already committed substantial resources in the host state - and not when they are simply at the stage where they are planning to do so.

Link to reference text

Taking into account the above explanation and the text provided in annex as a reference, what is your opinion of the objectives and approach taken in relation to the scope of the substantive investment protection provisions in TTIP?

Pour répondre à la question posée, les objectifs de l’Union et le champ d’application des dispositions de fond relatives à « la protection de l’investisseur » dans le cadre du Traité (TTIP) risquent de permettre l’organisation d’un dumping social, contraires aux choix du citoyen. Votre commission explique par exemple ainsi : « a juridical person must have substantial business activities in the territory of that Party » pour être protégée. Cependant, la société Amazon par exemple a une activité commerciale, certes, avérée (substantial) sur le territoire français mais ne paie pas ou très peu d’impôts, ne finance pas l’État. C’est l’Etat français et le système de protection sociale qui prennent en charge les personnes licenciées, congés maladie ou victimes d’accidents du travail ou autres. Le champ d’application de ce traité encourage les pratiques douteuses d’une société américaine comme Amazon et risque d’empêcher les Etats de se doter des outils juridiques pour faire obstacle à ces pratiques.

Explanation of the issue

Under the standards of non-discriminatory treatment of investors, a state Party to the agreement commits itself to treat foreign investors from the other Party in the same way in which it treats its own investors (national treatment), as well in the same way in which it treats investors from other countries (most-favoured nation treatment). This ensures a level playing field between foreign investors and local investors or investors from other countries. For instance, if a certain chemical substance were to be proven to be toxic to health, and the state took a decision that it should be prohibited, the state should not impose this prohibition only on foreign companies, while allowing domestic ones to continue to produce and sell that substance.

Non-discrimination obligations may apply after the foreign investor has made the investment in accordance with the applicable law (post-establishment), but they may also apply to the conditions of access of that investor to the market of the host country (pre-establishment).  

Approach in most existing investment agreements

The standards of national treatment and most-favoured nation (MFN) treatment are considered to be key provisions of investment agreements and therefore they have been consistently included in such agreements, although with some variation in substance.

Regarding national treatment, many investment agreements do not allow states to discriminate between a domestic and a foreign investor once the latter is already established in a Party’s territory. Other agreements, however, allow such discrimination to take place in a limited number of sectors.

Regarding MFN, most investment agreements do not clarify whether foreign investors are entitled to take advantage of procedural or substantive provisions contained in other past or future agreements concluded by the host country. Thus, investors may be able to claim that they are entitled to benefit from any provision of another agreement that they consider to be more favourable, which may even permit the application of an entirely new standard of protection that was not found in the original agreement. In practice, this is commonly referred to as "importation of standards".

The EU’s objectives and approach

The EU considers that, as a matter of principle, established investors should not be discriminated against after they have established in the territory of the host country, while at the same recognises that in certain rare cases and in some very specific sectors, discrimination against already established investors may need to be envisaged. The situation is different with regard to the right of establishment, where the Parties may choose whether or not to open certain markets or sectors, as they see fit.

On the "importation of standards" issue, the EU seeks to clarify that MFN does not allow procedural or substantive provisions to be imported from other agreements.

The EU also includes exceptions allowing the Parties to take measures relating to the protection of health, the environment, consumers, etc. Additional carve-outs would apply to the audio-visual sector and the granting of subsidies. These are typically included in EU FTAs and also apply to the non-discrimination obligations relating to investment. Such exceptions allow differences in treatment between investors and investments where necessary to achieve public policy objectives.

Link to reference text

Taking into account the above explanations and the text provided in annex as a reference, what is your opinion of the EU approach to non –discrimination in relation to the TTIP? Please explain.

Un investisseur américain établi en zone euro peut ne pas respecter les droits fondamentaux du travail, les États-Unis n’ayant ratifié que deux des huit normes fondamentales de l’organisation Internationale du Travail (OIT) qui visent à protéger les travailleurs. Organiser le droit des investisseurs américains à attaquer un État de l’UE pour discrimination alors qu’ils peuvent faire usage, eux mêmes, de pratiques abusives des règles du droit du travail européen est contraire aux pratiques d’usage des pays européens. Si une majorité électorale le décide, une démocratie a le droit de choisir d’interdire des pratiques entrepreneuriales jugées contraires aux droits humains fondamentaux (interdiction du travail des enfants, droit des travailleurs à se syndiquer, maintien de la biodiversité, respect de la vie privée, etc.). Et en tout état de cause, cette procédure de protection de l’investisseur contre la discrimination est inversée et va à l’encontre des exigences des gouvernements démocratiquement élus. Elle consiste à détrousser les États en brandissant l’arme de la discrimination à leur égard. C’est pourquoi le TTIP doit être rejeté.

Explanation of the issue

The obligation to grant foreign investors fair and equitable treatment (FET) is one of the key investment protection standards. It ensures that investors and investments are protected against treatment by the host country which, even if not expropriatory or discriminatory, is still unacceptable because it is arbitrary, unfair, abusive, etc. 

Approach in most investment agreements

The FET standard is present in most international investment agreements. However, in many cases the standard is not defined, and it is usually not limited or clarified. Inevitably, this has given arbitral tribunals significant room for interpretation, and the interpretations adopted by arbitral tribunals have varied from very narrow to very broad, leading to much controversy about the precise meaning of the standard. This lack of clarity has fueled a large number of ISDS claims by investors, some of which have raised concern with regard to the states' right to regulate. In particular, in some cases, the standard has been understood to encompass the protection of the legitimate expectations of investors in a very broad way, including the expectation of a stable general legislative framework.

Certain investment agreements have narrowed down the content of the FET standard by linking it to concepts that are considered to be part of customary international law, such as the minimum standard of treatment that countries must respect in relation to the treatment accorded to foreigners. However, this has also resulted in a wide range of differing arbitral tribunal decisions on what is or is not covered by customary international law, and has not brought the desired greater clarity to the definition of the standard. An issue sometimes linked to the FET standard is the respect by the host country of its legal obligations towards the foreign investors and their investments (sometimes referred to as an "umbrella clause"), e.g. when the host country has entered into a contract with the foreign investor. Investment agreements may have specific provisions to this effect, which have sometimes been interpreted broadly as implying that every breach of e.g. a contractual obligation could constitute a breach of the investment agreement.

EU objectives and approach

The main objective of the EU is to clarify the standard, in particular by incorporating key lessons learned from case-law. This would eliminate uncertainty for both states and investors.

Under this approach, a state could be held responsible for a breach of the fair and equitable treatment obligation only for breaches of a limited set of basic rights, namely: the denial of justice; the disregard of the fundamental principles of due process; manifest arbitrariness; targeted discrimination based on gender, race or religious belief; and abusive treatment, such as coercion, duress or harassment. This list may be extended only where the Parties (the EU and the US) specifically agree to add such elements to the content of the standard, for instance where there is evidence that new elements of the standard have emerged from international law.

The “legitimate expectations” of the investor may be taken into account in the interpretation of the standard. However, this is possible only where clear, specific representations have been made by a Party to the agreement in order to convince the investor to make or maintain the investment and upon which the investor relied, and that were subsequently not respected by that Party. The intention is to make it clear that an investor cannot legitimately expect that the general regulatory and legal regime will not change. Thus the EU intends to ensure that the standard is not understood to be a “stabilisation obligation”, in other words a guarantee that the legislation of the host state will not change in a way that might negatively affect investors. In line with the general objective of clarifying the content of the standard, the EU shall also strive, where necessary, to provide protection to foreign investors in situations in which the host state uses its sovereign powers to avoid contractual obligations towards foreign investors or their investments, without however covering ordinary contractual breaches like the non-payment of an invoice.

Link to reference text

Taking into account the above explanation and the text provided in annex as a reference, what is your opinion of the approach to fair and equitable treatment of investors and their investments in relation to the TTIP?

« Traitement juste et équitable des investisseurs et de leurs investissements » : de quelle équité parle-t-on ? Peut on accepter qu’une multinationale comme le groupe américain Cargill qui a par exemple fait payer 90.7 millions de dollars (66 millions d’euros) au Mexique, reconnu coupable d’avoir crée une nouvelle taxe sur les sodas ? Cet investisseur, Cargill, considère t il que c’est inéquitable qu’un État légifère en faveur de la protection de la santé publique de sa population ? Inversement, pourquoi s’occupe-t-on d’équité à l’égard des investisseurs et pas de celle de multinationales à l’égard des Etats dans lesquels elles investissent ? L’UE devrait plutôt travailler à offrir une protection aux Etats face à des investisseurs qui font usage de leurs pouvoirs souverains de délocalisation (pour mettre en concurrence les travailleurs, les régimes fiscaux, sociaux, les normes écologiques, etc.) pour échapper à leurs obligations légales vis-à-vis des règles démocratiques fondamentales (paiement des impôts, financement de la sécurité sociale, lutte contre le réchauffement climatique…). Ce traité constitue une menace aux intérêts des Etats démocratiquement élus et de leur population. C’est pourquoi le TTIP doit être rejeté.

Explanation of the issue

The right to property is a human right, enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights, in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights as well as in the legal tradition of EU Member States. This right is crucial to investors and investments. Indeed, the greatest risk that investors may incur in a foreign country is the risk of having their investment expropriated without compensation. This is why the guarantees against expropriation are placed at the core of any international investment agreement.

Direct expropriations, which entail the outright seizure of a property right, do not occur often nowadays and usually do not generate controversy in arbitral practice. However, arbitral tribunals are confronted with a much more difficult task when it comes to assessing whether a regulatory measure of a state, which does not entail the direct transfer of the property right, might be considered equivalent to expropriation (indirect expropriation).

Approach in most investment agreements

In investment agreements, expropriations are permitted if they are for a public purpose, non-discriminatory, resulting from the due process of law and are accompanied by prompt and effective compensation. This applies to both direct expropriation (such as nationalisation) and indirect expropriation (a measure having an effect equivalent to expropriation).

Indirect expropriation has been a source of concern in certain cases where regulatory measures taken for legitimate purposes have been subject to investor claims for compensation, on the grounds that such measures were equivalent to expropriation because of their significant negative impact on investment. Most investment agreements do not provide details or guidance in this respect, which has inevitably left arbitral tribunals with significant room for interpretation.

The EU's objectives and approach

The objective of the EU is to clarify the provisions on expropriation and to provide interpretative guidance with regard to indirect expropriation in order to avoid claims against legitimate public policy measures.  The EU wants to make it clear that non-discriminatory measures taken for legitimate public purposes, such as to protect health or the environment, cannot be considered equivalent to an expropriation, unless they are manifestly excessive in light of their purpose. The EU also wants to clarify that the simple fact that a measure has an impact on the economic value of the investment does not justify a claim that an indirect expropriation has occurred.

Link to reference text

Taking into account the above explanation and the text provided in annex as a reference, what is your opinion of the approach to dealing with expropriation in relation to the TTIP? Please explain.

Sur la forme et sur le fond. Sur la forme du questionnaire : il est un peu surprenant de répondre à des questions sans même avoir les principaux textes du projet de ce traité sous les yeux. L’opacité est équivalente à une expropriation de la consultation publique. La traduction de la 4ème question étant erronée en français, cela complique. Sur le fond, un Etat ne peut pas exproprier une multinationale sans compensation même en cas de force majeure, ou procéder à une expropriation indirecte. En revanche, l’entreprise a toute liberté pour transférer son capital et sortir des frontières, sans compensation aucune. L’Etat n’a pas le droit de lui demander de partir. Ainsi, la multinationale ArcellorMittal a décidé de fermer ses outils de production à Floranges (France) et à Liège (Belgique), en empêchant toute reprise par un éventuel acquéreur. Et un gouvernement n’aurait pas le droit de réquisitionner une usine dont un industriel ne veut plus ? Il est légitime, sous certaines conditions à fixer de façon démocratique, de pratiquer des expropriations, voire des nationalisations moyennant des compensations éventuellement fixées par le juge, comme ça se pratique régulièrement en France. Je suis totalement opposé à la proposition de la Commission européenne de considérer que certaines mesures « prises à des fins politiques légitimes » (protéger l’emploi, la santé ou l’environnement…) puissent être décrétées « excessives au regard de l’objectif poursuivi » et être assimilées à des expropriations illégitimes, pouvant donner lieu à des poursuites contre les Etats de la part des investisseurs étrangers. Ce traité est une menace aux intérêts des États démocratiquement élus et de leur population. C’est pourquoi le TTIP doit être rejeté.

Explanation of the issue

In democratic societies, the right to regulate of states is subject to principles and rules contained in both domestic legislation and in international law. For instance, in the European Convention on Human Rights, the Contracting States commit themselves to guarantee a number of civil and political rights. In the EU, the Constitutions of the Member States, as well as EU law, ensure that the actions of the state cannot go against fundamental rights of the citizens. Hence, public regulation must be based on a legitimate purpose and be necessary in a democratic society.

Investment agreements reflect this perspective. Nevertheless, wherever such agreements contain provisions that appear to be very broad or ambiguous, there is always a risk that the arbitral tribunals interpret them in a manner which may be perceived as a threat to the state's right to regulate. In the end, the decisions of arbitral tribunals are only as good as the provisions that they have to interpret and apply.

 Approach in most investment agreements

Most agreements that are focused on investment protection are silent about how public policy issues, such as public health, environmental protection, consumer protection or prudential regulation, might interact with investment. Consequently, the relationship between the protection of investments and the right to regulate in such areas, as envisaged by the contracting Parties to such agreements is not clear and this creates uncertainty.

In more recent agreements, however, this concern is increasingly addressed through, on the one hand, clarification of the key investment protection provisions that have proved to be controversial in the past and, on the other hand, carefully drafted exceptions to certain commitments. In complex agreements such as free trade agreements with provisions on investment, or regional integration agreements, the inclusion of such safeguards is the usual practice.

The EU's objectives and approach

The objective of the EU is to achieve a solid balance between the protection of investors and the Parties' right to regulate.

First of all, the EU wants to make sure that the Parties' right to regulate is confirmed as a basic underlying principle. This is important, as arbitral tribunals will have to take this principle into account when assessing any dispute settlement case.

Secondly, the EU will introduce clear and innovative provisions with regard to investment protection standards that have raised concern in the past (for instance, the standard of fair and equitable treatment is defined based on a closed list of basic rights; the annex on expropriation clarifies that non-discriminatory measures for legitimate public policy objectives do not constitute indirect expropriation). These improvements will ensure that investment protection standards cannot be interpreted by arbitral tribunals in a way that is detrimental to the right to regulate.

Third, the EU will ensure that all the necessary safeguards and exceptions are in place. For instance, foreign investors should be able to establish in the EU only under the terms and conditions defined by the EU. A list of horizontal exceptions will apply to non-discrimination obligations, in relation to measures such as those taken in the field of environmental protection, consumer protection or health (see question 2 for details). Additional carve-outs would apply to the audiovisual sector and the granting of subsidies. Decisions on competition matters will not be subject to investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS). Furthermore, in line with other EU agreements, nothing in the agreement would prevent a Party from taking measures for prudential reasons, including measures for the protection of depositors or measures to ensure the integrity and stability of its financial system. In addition, EU agreements contain general exceptions applying in situations of crisis, such as in circumstances of serious difficulties for the operation of the exchange rate policy or monetary policy, balance of payments or external financial difficulties, or threat thereof.

In terms of the procedural aspects relating to ISDS, the objective of the EU is to build a system capable of adapting to the states' right to regulate. Wherever greater clarity and precision proves necessary in order to protect the right to regulate, the Parties will have the possibility to adopt interpretations of the investment protection provisions which will be binding on arbitral tribunals.  This will allow the Parties to oversee how the agreement is interpreted in practice and, where necessary, to influence the interpretation.

The procedural improvements proposed by the EU will also make it clear that an arbitral tribunal will not be able to order the repeal of a measure, but only compensation for the investor.

Furthermore, frivolous claims will be prevented and investors who bring claims unsuccessfully will pay the costs of the government concerned (see question 9).

Link to reference text

Taking into account the above explanation and the text provided in annex as a reference, what is your opinion with regard to the way the right to regulate is dealt with in the EU's approach to TTIP?

Dans de telles conditions, comment l’État européen, possiblement mis en cause dans un litige peut trouver le moyen sécurisé de réglementer et de poursuivre des objectifs légitimes d’intérêt général ? En effet, l’État se voit imposer, dans ce traité, l’obligation de réserver un « traitement juste et équitable », aux multinationales américaines, à ses dépens, de « non discrimination » entre les nationaux et les étrangers, de protection de toute expropriation ou de nationalisation même si l’investisseur en question met en péril ce même Etat (Banques, fonds de pension, hedge fund etc.). Si bien que le Venezuela, l’Équateur, la Bolivie ont annulé leurs traités. L’Afrique du Sud songe à suivre cet exemple, sans doute échaudée par le long procès qui l’a opposée à la compagnie italienne Piero Foresti, Laura de Carli et autres, au sujet du Black Economy Empowerment Act. Cette loi octroyant aux Noirs un accès préférentiel à la propriété des mines et des terres était jugée par les Italiens contraire à « l’égalité de traitement entre les entreprises étrangères et les entreprises nationales ». La meilleure façon de tenir compte du droit de réglementer des Etat européens consiste à ne pas adopter de système ISDN.

B. Investor-to-State dispute settlement (ISDS)

Explanation of the issue

In most ISDS cases, no or little information is made available to the public, hearings are not open and third parties are not allowed to intervene in the proceedings. This makes it difficult for the public to know the basic facts and to evaluate the claims being brought by either side.

This lack of openness has given rise to concern and confusion with regard to the causes and potential outcomes of ISDS disputes. Transparency is essential to ensure the legitimacy and accountability of the system. It enables stakeholders interested in a dispute to be informed and contribute to the proceedings. It fosters accountability in arbitrators, as their decisions are open to scrutiny. It contributes to consistency and predictability as it helps create a body of cases and information that can be relied on by investors, stakeholders, states and ISDS tribunals.

Approach in most existing investment agreements

Under the rules that apply in most existing agreements, both the responding state and the investor need to agree to permit the publication of submissions. If either the investor or the responding state does not agree to publication, documents cannot be made public. As a result, most ISDS cases take place behind closed doors and no or a limited number of documents are made available to the public.

The EU’s objectives and approach 

The EU's aim is to ensure transparency and openness in the ISDS system under TTIP. The EU will include provisions to guarantee that hearings are open and that all documents are available to the public. In ISDS cases brought under TTIP, all documents will be publicly available (subject only to the protection of confidential information and business secrets) and hearings will be open to the public. Interested parties from civil society will be able to file submissions to make their views and arguments known to the ISDS tribunal. 

The EU took a leading role in establishing new United Nations rules on transparency[1] in ISDS. The objective of transparency will be achieved by incorporating these rules into TTIP.

Link to reference text

Taking into account the above explanation and the text provided in annex as a reference, please provide your views on whether this approach contributes to the objective of the EU to increase transparency and openness in the ISDS system for TTIP. Please indicate any additional suggestions you may have.

Il y aurait beaucoup à redire sur la capacité ou volonté des medias à informer le citoyen des enjeux réels du monde. En effet, le système économique des médias (télévisions, journaux etc.) fonctionne exclusivement soit grâce au financement des multinationales par la publicité, soit grâce aux subventions des Etats eux-mêmes. Par ailleurs la défiance des citoyens à l’égard des medias est importante, ce qui conduit une part non négligeable de la population à s’informer ailleurs. De ce fait, comment d’abord, la Commission pourra-t-elle remédier, par le biais du TTIP, au manque de transparence structurel de l’information politique ou économique ? Ensuite et surtout, comment le TTIP compte résoudre un problème naissant de conflit d’intérêts dans un cas de conflit international entre une multinationale et un Etat. En effet, comment une transparence de l’information peut-elle être effective si ce sont les deux parties prenantes au conflit qui financent l’information du citoyen ? Si par exemple l’Allemagne a un conflit avec la multinationale Exxon au sujet de la volonté de légiférer le développement des énergies renouvelables. Si l’Etat allemand finance les télévisions et journaux et qu’Exxon achète des publicités à tout va pour sa cause et de ce fait achète la ligne éditoriale du journal, comment le citoyen peut-il, dans ces conditions, être informé en toute transparence ? Il est bien évident que le citoyen ne va pas nécessairement aller courir sur le site de l’Europe pour retrouver les éléments d’un conflit international et que pour que la transparence soit effective, les éléments du conflit international doivent être publiés dans les journaux. La preuve en est, les éléments de ce grand marché transatlantique viennent à peine d’être publiés dans les journaux (à la télévision, c’est le silence sur le sujet) alors que les négociations des clauses du traité ont commencé il y a plus d’un an ! Il a fallu la campagne des européennes pour que certains partis dont EELV expliquent les enjeux et menaces du TIPP et que les citoyens commencent à s’y intéresser. Que peut déduire le citoyen d’un Etat du pacte transatlantique ? Sans aucun doute, la transparence de l’information apparait tout à fait hasardeuse et illusoire. La transparence de l’information ne suffit pas à assurer la légitimité d’un système RDIE dont le principe même pose problème. Ma suggestion est donc de supprimer le système RDIE là où il existe (car il est imparfait et a provoqué de nombreux litiges) et de ne pas le mettre en place là où il n’existe pas encore car les améliorations apportées n’apparaissent pas du tout efficaces pour éviter des litiges mais peuvent les développer.

Explanation of the issue

Investors who consider that they have grounds to complain about action taken by the authorities (e.g. discrimination or lack of compensation after expropriation) often have different options. They may be able to go to domestic courts and seek redress there. They or any related companies may be able to go to other international tribunals under other international investment treaties.

It is often the case that protection offered in investment agreements cannot be invoked before domestic courts and the applicable legal rules are different. For example, discrimination in favour of local companies is not prohibited under US law but is prohibited in investment agreements. There are also concerns that, in some cases domestic courts may favour the local government over the foreign investor e.g. when assessing a claim for compensation for expropriation or may deny due process rights such as the effective possibility to appeal. Governments may have immunity from being sued. In addition, the remedies are often different. In some cases government measures can be reversed by domestic courts, for example if they are illegal or unconstitutional. ISDS tribunals cannot order governments to reverse measures.

These different possibilities raise important and complex issues. It is important to make sure that a government does not pay more than the correct compensation. It is also important to ensure consistency between rulings.

Approach in most existing investment agreements

Existing investment agreements generally do not regulate or address the relationship with domestic courts or other ISDS tribunals. Some agreements require that the investor choses between domestic courts and ISDS tribunals. This is often referred to as "fork in the road" clause.

The EU’s objectives and approach

As a matter of principle, the EU’s approach favours domestic courts. The EU aims to provide incentives for investors to pursue claims in domestic courts or to seek amicable solutions – such as mediation. The EU will suggest different instruments to do this. One is to prolong the relevant time limits if an investor goes to domestic courts or mediation on the same matter, so as not to discourage an investor from pursuing these avenues.  Another important element is to make sure that investors cannot bring claims on the same matter at the same time in front of an ISDS tribunal and domestic courts. The EU will also ensure that companies affiliated with the investor cannot bring claims in front of an ISDS tribunal and domestic courts on the same matter and at the same time. If there are other relevant or related cases, ISDS tribunals must take these into account. This is done to avoid any risk that the investor is over-compensated and helps to ensure consistency by excluding the possibility for parallel claims.

Link to reference text

Taking into account the above explanation and the text provided in annex as a reference, please provide your views on the effectiveness of this approach for balancing access to ISDS with possible recourse to domestic courts and for avoiding conflicts between domestic remedies and ISDS in relation to the TTIP. Please indicate any further steps that can be taken. Please provide comments on the usefulness of mediation as a means to settle disputes.

Il y a un problème majeur à vouloir considérer des investisseurs multinationaux comme égal à l’Etat. La compétence exclusive doit rester aux tribunaux nationaux et européens. Un comité spécial des Nations Unies a adopté en 1966 une sorte de charte de l’égalité souveraine des États. En voici l’énoncé: « Tous les États jouissent de l’égalité souveraine. Ils ont des droits et des devoirs égaux, et sont membres de la communauté internationale nonobstant les différences d’ordre économique, social, politique ou autre. 2. En particulier, l’égalité souveraine comprend les éléments suivants: a) Les États sont juridiquement égaux. b) Chaque État jouit des droits inhérents à la souveraineté. c) Chaque État a le devoir de respecter la personnalité des autres États. d) L’intégrité territoriale et l’indépendance politique de l’État sont inviolables. e) Chaque État a le droit de choisir et de développer librement son système politique, social, économique et culturel. f) Chaque État a le devoir de s’acquitter pleinement et de bonne foi de ses obligations internationales et de vivre en paix avec les autres États.« En aucun cas, cette charte de l’égalité souveraine des États ne fait référence à l’égalité des investisseurs multinationaux avec des Etats. Aucune disposition des constitutions ou du Traité de Lisbonne n’autorise les négociateurs du traité du partenariat transatlantique de traiter les investisseurs et les États sur un pied d’égalité, ainsi que le font les RDIE. C’est un procédé antidémocratique tant que le droit à l’autodétermination, le droit des peuples à disposer d’eux-mêmes fait partie intégrante de nos constitutions et de nos usages occidentaux. Le droit national est bâti sur une constitution qui donne sa légitimité aux gouvernements de chaque pays, alors que les investisseurs sont des personnes ou organisations privées qui doivent (comme le citoyen) s’inscrire dans le cadre juridique que les États ont défini. Le seul équilibre souhaitable, c’est d’accorder une compétence exclusive aux tribunaux nationaux (ou à la Cour de justice européenne) pour régler les conflits opposant États et investisseurs étrangers. Ce traité est une menace aux intérêts des Etats démocratiquement élus et de leur population. C’est pourquoi le TTIP doit être rejeté.

Explanation of the issue

There is concern that arbitrators on ISDS tribunals do not always act in an independent and impartial manner. Because the individuals in question may not only act as arbitrators, but also as lawyers for companies or governments, concerns have been expressed as to potential bias or conflicts of interest.

Some have also expressed concerns about the qualifications of arbitrators and that they may not have the necessary qualifications on matters of public interest or on matters that require a balancing between investment protection and e.g. environment, health or consumer protection.

Approach in existing investment agreements

  Most existing investment agreements do not address the issue of the conduct or behaviour of arbitrators. International rules on arbitration address the issue by allowing the responding government or the investor to challenge the choice of arbitrator because of concerns of suitability.

Most agreements allow the investor and the responding state to select arbitrators but do not establish rules on the qualifications or a list of approved, qualified arbitrators to draw from.

  The EU’s objective and approach

The EU aims to establish clear rules to ensure that arbitrators are independent and act ethically. The EU will introduce specific requirements in the TTIP on the ethical conduct of arbitrators, including a code of conduct. This code of conduct will be binding on arbitrators in ISDS tribunals set up under TTIP.  The code of conduct also establishes procedures to identify and deal with any conflicts of interest.  Failure to abide by these ethical rules will result in the removal of the arbitrator from the tribunal. For example, if a responding state considers that the arbitrator chosen by the investor does not have the necessary qualifications or that he has a conflict of interest, the responding state can challenge the appointment. If the arbitrator is in breach of the Code of Conduct, he/she will be removed from the tribunal. In case the ISDS tribunal has already rendered its award and a breach of the code of conduct is found, the responding state or the investor can request a reversal of that ISDS finding.

In the text provided as reference (the draft EU-Canada Agreement), the Parties (i.e. the EU and Canada) have agreed for the first time in an investment agreement to include rules on the conduct of arbitrators, and have included the possibility to improve them further if necessary. In the context of TTIP these would be directly included in the agreement.

As regards the qualifications of ISDS arbitrators, the EU aims to set down detailed requirements for the arbitrators who act in ISDS tribunals under TTIP. They must be independent and impartial, with expertise in international law and international investment law and, if possible, experience in international trade law and international dispute resolution. Among those best qualified and who have undertaken such tasks will be retired judges, who generally have experience in ruling on issues that touch upon both trade and investment and on societal and public policy issues. The EU also aims to set up a roster, i.e. a list of qualified individuals from which the Chairperson for the ISDS tribunal is drawn, if the investor or the responding state cannot otherwise agree to a Chairperson. The purpose of such a roster is to ensure that the EU and the US have agreed to and vetted the arbitrators to ensure their abilities and independence.  In this way the responding state chooses one arbitrator and has vetted the third arbitrator.

Link to reference text

Taking into account the above explanation and the text provided in annex as a reference, please provide your views on these procedures and in particular on the Code of Conduct and the requirements for the qualifications for arbitrators in relation to the TTIP agreement. Do they improve the existing system and can further improvements be envisaged?

Dans l’article « des tribunaux pour détrousser les Etats » de Benoit Bréville et Martine Bulard du Monde diplomatique de juin 2014, les citoyens avertis peuvent lire avec stupeur la manière dont les arbitres sont recrutés et qui ils sont. Il est ainsi souligné par exemple pour trois d’entre eux en particulier : ♣ « Avec trente cas à son actif, le Chilien Francisco Orrego Vicuna fait partie des quinze arbitres les plus sollicités. Avant de se lancer dans la justice commerciale, il a occupé d’importantes fonctions gouvernementales pendant la dictature d’Augusto Pinochet. ♣ Lui aussi membre de ce top 15, le juriste et ancien ministre canadien Marc Lalonde est passé par les conseils d’administrations de Citibank Canada et d’Air France. ♣ Son compatriote L. Yves Fortier a quant à lui navigué entre la présidence du Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU, le cabinet Ogilvy Renault et les conseils d’administration de Nova Chemicals Corporation, Alcan ou Rio Tinto. Un véritable gage d’indépendance. » Dans ces conditions, 15 arbitres ont le vent en poupe alors que pourtant ils sont juges et parties aux affaires internationales. Les vœux de transparence sont-ils de simples chimères ou la commission a-t-elle pris de vraies mesures éthiques pour remplacer tout ce beau petit monde ? L’arbitrage international est dangereux. La compétence exclusive doit rester aux tribunaux nationaux et européens. Ce traité est une menace aux intérêts des États démocratiquement élus et de leur population. C’est pourquoi le TTIP doit être rejeté.

Explanation of the issue

As in all legal systems, cases are brought that have little or no chance of succeeding (so-called “frivolous claims”). Despite eventually being rejected by the tribunals, such cases take up time and money for the responding state. There have been concerns that protracted and frequent litigation in ISDS could have an effect on the policy choices made by states. This is why it is important to ensure that there are mechanisms in place to weed out frivolous disputes as early as possible.

Another issue is the cost of ISDS proceedings. In many ISDS cases, even if the responding state is successful in defending its measures in front of the ISDS tribunal, it may have to pay substantial amounts to cover its own defence.

Approach in most existing investment agreements:

Under existing investment agreements, there are generally no rules dealing with frivolous claims. Some arbitration rules however do have provisions on frivolous claims. As a result, there is a risk that frivolous or clearly unfounded claims are allowed to proceed. Even though the investor would lose such claims, the long proceedings and the implied questions surrounding policy can be problematic.

The issue of who bears the cost is also not addressed in most existing investment agreements. Some international arbitration rules have provisions that address the issue of costs in very general terms. In practice, ISDS tribunals have often decided that the investor and responding state pay their own legal costs, regardless of who wins or loses.

The EU’s objectives and approach

The EU will introduce several instruments in TTIP to quickly dismiss frivolous claims.

ISDS tribunals will be required to dismiss claims that are obviously without legal merit or legally unfounded. For example, this would be cases where the investor is not established in the US or the EU, or cases where the ISDS tribunal can quickly establish that there is in fact no discrimination between domestic and foreign investors. This provides an early and effective filtering mechanism for frivolous claims thereby avoiding a lengthy litigation process.

To further discourage unfounded claims, the EU is proposing that the losing party should bear all costs of the proceedings. So if investors take a chance at bringing certain claims and fail, they have to pay the full financial costs of this attempt.

Link to reference text

Taking into account the above explanation and the text provided in annex as a reference, please provide your views on these mechanisms for the avoidance of frivolous or unfounded claims and the removal of incentives in relation to the TTIP agreement. Please also indicate any other means to limit frivolous or unfounded claims.

« Pour qu’on ne puisse abuser du pouvoir, il faut que, par la disposition des choses, le pouvoir arrête le pouvoir » Montesquieu Mais force est de constater que la Commission se place en contradiction avec une résolution du Conseil des droits de l’homme de l’ONU qui s’attaque à l’impunité de fait dont bénéficie les multinationales. Le conseil de l’ONU a ainsi décidé d’entamer des négociations en vue de l’adoption d’un traité international sur les obligations des multinationales en matière de droits humains. Ainsi que le souligne parfaitement l’ONG Attac France : « Les cas de Bhopal au Rana Plaza, de Chevron en Équateur ou de Marikana en Afrique du Sud justifient la double nécessité de destituer l’architecture d’impunité dans laquelle évoluent les multinationales, et d’introduire des dispositions contraignantes garantissant que les droits économiques, sociaux, politiques et environnementaux des populations ne puissent être violés par les multinationales, et rester impunis. » Les Tribunaux de RDIE, tribunaux privés d’arbitrage, placent un groupe social particulier (les investisseurs) au-dessus du reste de la population, et mettent ainsi gravement en cause le principe d’égalité juridique devant la loi. Ce traité de RDIE est une menace aux intérêts des États démocratiquement élus et de leur population. C’est pourquoi le TTIP doit être rejeté.

Explanation of the issue

Recently, concerns have been expressed in relation to several ISDS claims brought by investors under existing investment agreements, relating to measures taken by states affecting the financial sector, notably those taken in times of crisis in order to protect consumers or to maintain the stability and integrity of the financial system.

To address these concerns, some investment agreements have introduced mechanisms which grant the regulators of the Parties to the agreement the possibility to intervene (through a so-called “filter” to ISDS) in particular ISDS cases that involve measures ostensibly taken for prudential reasons. The mechanism enables the Parties to decide whether a measure is indeed taken for prudential reasons, and thus if the impact on the investor concerned is justified. On this basis, the Parties may therefore agree that a claim should not proceed.

Approach in most existing investment agreements

The majority of existing investment agreements privilege the original intention of such agreements, which was to avoid the politicisation of disputes, and therefore do not contain provisions or mechanisms which allow the Parties the possibility to intervene under particular circumstances in ISDS cases.

The EU’s objectives and approach

The EU like many other states considers it important to protect the right to regulate in the financial sector and, more broadly, the overriding need to maintain the overall stability and integrity of the financial system, while also recognizing the speed needed for government action in case of financial crisis.

Link to reference text

Some investment agreements include filter mechanisms whereby the Parties to the agreement (here the EU and the US) may intervene in ISDS cases where an investor seeks to challenge measures adopted pursuant to prudential rules for financial stability. In such cases the Parties may decide jointly that a claim should not proceed any further. Taking into account the above explanation and the text provided in annex as a reference, what are your views on the use and scope of such filter mechanisms in the TTIP agreement?

Le filtre évoqué est une fausse digue. Il n’y aura pas de filtre. Les « parties », c’est-à-dire l’Etat régulateur incriminé ne pourra pas bloquer une procédure à son encontre car l’investisseur aura tous les droits comme il est bien écrit plus haut dans cette consultation. L’investisseur est protégé contre toute « discrimination » et doit recevoir un traitement « juste et équitable ». La section VI (du texte du TTIP qui a fuité), consacrée aux services financiers, telle qu’elle est rédigée, donne tout ce qu’il faut pour accroître le risque d’instabilité financière pour les années à venir. Premièrement, parce que le texte du projet du traité (qui a fuité) spécifie à toutes les pages le mot « libéralisation », je cite pour exemple l’Article 51 de la section VI consacrée aux services financiers : « This Section sets out the principles of the regulatory framework for all financial services liberalized” Deuxièmement, tous les produits dérivés sont listés et placés sous le joug de ce traité y compris, en filigrane, les produits toxiques. Ceux-ci sont autorisés dans ce traité pour la défense de l’investisseur aux dépens des citoyens d’un Etat et de cet Etat lui-même et voici quelques termes d’une longue énumération laquelle comporte entre autres les : ♣ “derivative products including, but not limited to, futures and options“ ; ♣ “participation in issues of all kinds of securities, including underwriting and placement as agent (whether publicly or privately) and provision of services related to such issues”. Si bien que l’avocate Lori Wallach, de l’ONG états-unienne Public Citizen dénonce ainsi : Ce projet de Traité « reviendra alors à un démantèlement des nouvelles réglementations de la finance. Les négociateurs de l’Union européenne ont exigé une révision des réformes introduites par le président Barack Obama pour réglementer le secteur financier, ainsi qu’une restriction de l’encadrement des activités bancaires. Leurs principales cibles : la règle Volcker, qui limite la capacité des banques commerciales à développer des activités spéculatives, les lois proposées par la Réserve fédérale s’appliquant aux banques étrangères, ainsi que la régulation publique des assurances. Les négociateurs américains, conseillés par des banquiers de Wall Street, ont proposé d’ajouter au traité des règles contraires aux dispositions américaines visant à interdire les produits dérivés toxiques à limiter la taille des banques dites too big to fail (« trop importantes pour faire faillite »), à mettre en vigueur une taxe sur les transactions financières et à réintroduire le principe de la loi Glass-Steagall. » Troisièmement, l’article 52, de la section VI consacrée aux services financiers, intitulé : « Prudential carve-out », serait une exception prudentielle qui tendrait à « Autoriser le maintien d’un recours» (« Allowing claims to proceed (filter)») d’un investisseur contre un Etat ainsi qu’il est écrit dans la question ci-dessus. Cela veut-il dire que tout sera mis en œuvre pour que l’investisseur puisse poursuivre son recours contre un Etat qui adopte des mesures prudentielles visant à préserver la stabilité financière ? La commission veut peut-être plutôt dire que l’article 52 vise à « Interdire le maintien d’un recours » d’un investisseur à l’encontre d’un Etat qui adopte des mesures prudentielles visant à préserver la stabilité financière ? (« Forbidding claims to proceed (filter) ») Enfin, l’article 52 visant à interdire le maintien d’un recours à l’encontre d’un Etat doit être réécrit dans son deuxième alinéa. En effet, le texte du projet prévoit que : “These measures shall not be more burdensome than necessary to achieve their aim.” Il suffit simplement de réécrire le texte ainsi : “These measures shall be as burdensome as necessary to achieve their aim.” Cette section VI telle qu’elle est rédigée donne tout ce qu’il faut pour accroître le risque d’instabilité financière pour les années à venir. Ce traité est une menace aux intérêts des Etats démocratiquement élus et de leur population. C’est pourquoi le TTIP doit être rejeté.

Explanation of the Issue

When countries negotiate an agreement, they have a common understanding of what they want the agreement to mean. However, there is a risk that any tribunal, including ISDS tribunals interprets the agreement in a different way, upsetting the balance that the countries in question had achieved in negotiations – for example, between investment protection and the right to regulate. This is the case if the agreement leaves room for interpretation. It is therefore necessary to have mechanisms which will allow the Parties (the EU and the US) to clarify their intentions on how the agreement should be interpreted.

Approach in existing investment agreements

Most existing investment agreements do not permit the countries who signed the agreement in question to take part in proceedings nor to give directions to the ISDS tribunal on issues of interpretation.

The EU’s objectives and approach 

The EU will make it possible for the non-disputing Party (i.e. the EU or the US) to intervene in ISDS proceedings between an investor and the other Party. This means that in each case, the Parties can explain to the arbitrators and to the Appellate Body how they would want the relevant provisions to be interpreted.  Where both Parties agree on the interpretation, such interpretation is a very powerful statement, which ISDS tribunals would have to respect.

The EU would also provide for the Parties (i.e. the EU and the US) to adopt binding interpretations on issues of law, so as to correct or avoid interpretations by tribunals which might be considered to be against the common intentions of the EU and the US. Given the EU’s intention to give clarity and precision to the investment protection obligations of the agreement, the scope for undesirable interpretations by ISDS tribunals is very limited. However, this provision is an additional safety-valve for the Parties.

Link to reference text

Taking into account the above explanation and the text provided in annex as a reference, please provide your views on this approach to ensure uniformity and predictability in the interpretation of the agreement to correct the balance? Are these elements desirable, and if so, do you consider them to be sufficient?

Qu’il soit souhaitable d’éviter des erreurs d’interprétation sur la signification d’accords juridiques est une évidence. Que les éléments proposés soient suffisants, je ne le pense pas. Selon la proposition de l’UE, en cas de conflit juridique entre une multinationale et une puissance publique (l’UE ou les USA) où la nature et l’interprétation du droit seraient en cause, la balle décisive serait dans le camp de la « partie non contestante » (UE ou Etats-Unis). Cette partie non contestante pourrait décider de venir (ou de ne pas venir) prêter main-forte à l’autre partie, afin de donner une interprétation commune des points juridiques faisant conflit. Mais pourquoi donner autant de pouvoir à la « partie non contestante », qui pourrait être les Etats- Unis (soit un pays où je n’ai pas le droit de vote) ? Pour moi, il est inacceptable que le gouvernement que je contribue à élire en Europe soit limité, dans ses pouvoirs de décision, par des institutions (Tribunal d’arbitrage) ou des pays (la « partie non contestante ») sur lequel je n’ai aucun contrôle démocratique.

Explanation of the issue

In existing investment agreements, the decision by an ISDS tribunal is final. There is no possibility for the responding state, for example, to appeal to a higher instance to challenge the level of compensation or other aspects of the ISDS decision except on very limited procedural grounds. There are concerns that this can lead to different or even contradictory interpretations of the provisions of international investment agreements. There have been calls by stakeholders for a mechanism to allow for appeal to increase legitimacy of the system and to ensure uniformity of interpretation.

  

Approach in most existing investment agreements

No existing international investment agreements provide for an appeal on legal issues. International arbitration rules allow for annulment of ISDS rulings under certain very restrictive conditions relating to procedural issues. 

The EU’s objectives and approach 

The EU aims to establish an appellate mechanism in TTIP so as to allow for review of ISDS rulings. It will help ensure consistency in the interpretation of TTIP and provide both the government and the investor with the opportunity to appeal against awards and to correct errors. This legal review is an additional check on the work of the arbitrators who have examined the case in the first place.

In agreements under negotiation by the EU, the possibility of creating an appellate mechanism in the future is envisaged. However, in TTIP the EU intends to go further and create a bilateral appellate mechanism immediately through the agreement.

Link to reference text

Question 12. Taking into account the above explanation and the text provided in annex as a reference, please provide your views on the creation of an appellate mechanism in TTIP as a means to ensure uniformity and predictability in the interpretation of the agreement.

Ce mécanisme d’appel coûtera de l’argent supplémentaire, et rallongera la durée d’incertitude (quant à l’issue du conflit) durant laquelle le pouvoir politique sera sous pression pour éviter tout nouveau recours lancé par un investisseur. Cela ne facilitera ni la vie parlementaire, ni le processus démocratique. Qui plus est, rien ne garantit que d’éventuelles erreurs de jugement soient corrigées. Dans le pire des cas, des décisions initialement favorables aux Etats pourraient même être annulées et laisser place au versement de dommages et intérêts pour les firmes privées. Même si un mécanisme d’appel est souhaitable dans les affaires judiciaires, ce mécanisme d’appel ne peut, à lui seul, modifier la nature d’une procédure RDIE profondément injuste et antidémocratique. Le RDIE accorde en effet un rôle et une place injustifiée à des parties privées (les investisseurs, placés sur un pied d’égalité avec les Etats) qui n’ont pas à avoir des droits supérieurs à ceux de n’importe quel citoyen ou organisation privée.

C. General assessment

General assessment
  • What is your overall assessment of the proposed approach on substantive standards of protection and ISDS as a basis for investment negotiations between the EU and US?
  • Do you see other ways for the EU to improve the investment system?
  • Are there any other issues related to the topics covered by the questionnaire that you would like to address?

Le RDIE est profondément antidémocratique. Il bafoue mon droit à élire des représentants politiques jouissant d’un réel pouvoir de décision et confère un rôle pratiquement égal aux gouvernements et aux investisseurs privés. Les libertés que le RDIE accorde aux investisseurs privés sont d’autant plus inacceptables qu’elles se font au sein d’économies ouvertes (par volonté politique), qui permettent aux investisseurs de choisir les législations écologiques, fiscales et sociales qu’ils préfèrent. Cette légalisation du dumping place déjà les investisseurs et multinationales au-dessus des lois, qu’ils peuvent contourner à leur aise. Je suis pour une régulation publique beaucoup plus forte des activités économiques, décourageant les investissements nuisibles (comme la spéculation financière) au profit d’investissements d’intérêt général (favoriser des entrepreneurs locaux et des circuits courts de consommation crée de l’emploi durable et contribuer à lutter contre le réchauffement climatique). Je suis profondément opposé au RDIE. Et pour conclure avec les « questions en relation avec les thèmes couverts par le questionnaire », c’est l’ensemble du TTIP que je conteste, notamment parce qu’il renforce les possibilités de dumping. C’est pourquoi les négociations du TTIP doivent, elles aussi, être immédiatement stoppées. Ainsi que l’économiste américain Joseph E. Stiglitz dans son article «Du mauvais coté de la globalisation » le souligne avec force de conviction : « Nous pouvons argumenter sur le point de savoir pourquoi notre économie ne fonctionne comme elle serait supposée - si c’est à cause d’un manque de demande globale, ou si c’est parce que nos banques sont plus intéressées par la spéculation et la manipulation du marché que par le prêt, ne fournissant pas les fonds adéquats aux petites et moyennes entreprises. Mais indépendamment de toutes ces raisons, la réalité est que ces accords commerciaux font risquer vraiment une indemnisation du chômage. »