The ongoing free-trade talks between the European Union and the United States roused a heated debate at the Finnish Parliament on Wednesday, after the Left Alliance voiced its opposition to the investment protection scheme believed to be a part of the trade and investment pact.
Silvia Modig (Left Alliance) demanded that the talks be abandoned if the pact contains provisions for arbitration and investment protection.
The demand is also a key part of the manifesto of the Left Alliance for the European Parliament elections.
Modig and Annika Lapintie, the chairperson of the Left Alliance parliamentary group, argued on Wednesday that instead of an arbitration court any arising disputes should be resolved at national courts. “In its current form, the pact would principally serve the interests of multi-national corporations,” Modig viewed.
Alexander Stubb (NCP), the Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade, reported yesterday on the progress of the talks to the Parliament. “Our objective is to facilitate the market entry of our enterprises and to remove barriers to trade in the United States caused by overlapping regulations,” he explained.
In addition, Stubb dispelled the concerns that the arbitration system could overrule national decision-making. “In the majority of cases brought to arbitration courts, common sense has prevailed,” he argued.
Ultimately, the minister said, the pact is likely to contain a provision for arbitration. “And that's good. Investment protection regimes already in place have shown that arbitration procedures are effective,” Stubb said to Helsingin Sanomat.
“Disputes will then remain disputes between companies and nations. Therefore, they won't evolve into disputes between nation states, as we have seen often in the WTO [the World Trade Organization].”
Stubb also emphasised that the EU has set out to address all possible loopholes in the arbitration provision and in order to do so will hold a public hearing on the investment pact.
According to Stubb, the EU is very ambitious in the trade talks. “The level of ambition is crucial especially for our services, public procurements, regulations and customs procedures – not to mention the dissolution of US duties on industrial and agricultural products.”
Anna-Liina Kauhanen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
© HELSINGIN SANOMAT
Photo: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva