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The European Union's trade commissioner Karel De Gucht has denied that the mooted trade deal between the EU and the US will give multinational corporations power over incumbent governments.
Speaking at an event in London, De Gucht was responding to concerns raised by NGOs and politicians over the highly controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause which is under discussion, as deal brokers attempt to negotiate the finer details of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
De Gucht said that he is currently awaiting the results of a public consultation on exactly how the Eu should approach these discussions, which was launched in March. De Gucht withdrew ISDS from the agenda in January after public concerns in Germany.
The clause would theoretically allow corporations to bring charges against any government that has a negative impact on its profits, due to local policy rulings. It has sparked fears that companies would be able to sue a government for diminishing the value of their investments.
Arguably the most high profile case of ISDS being activated was when a fracking company sought compensation from the Quebecois government for a moratorium placed on shale gas extraction, which the company claimed diminished the value of the land it had invested in.
In Europe, concerns have been raised about the potential influx of genetically-modified foods to the EU market, where they are currently outlawed. They are readily available, however, in the US.
De Gucht suggested that the EU would be able to maintain its local regulatory environment, saying: "Investment protection is not something brand new that didn't exist before. As I have already suggested, international investment agreements – including the ones people are worried about - already exist in their thousands. And despite their existence we have been able to put in place all the regulations of the EU's Single Market."
He also said that while he has the option of removing the clause from discussions, the US is unwilling to do so.
Last week in an interview with IBTimes UK, the shadow trade minister and Labour MP Ian Murray, moved to assuage UK voters' fears over ISDS, as well as concerns over the impact TTIP would have on public services here.
Asked whether Labour support was dependent on both these items being excluded, Murray replied: "That's certainly the position of the Social Democrat members of the European Parliament, and Labour is part of that. They're very much of the view that the general utilities reservation [which would exempt public services] and ISDS are the red lines for them – and for us as well."
He added: "There's no doubt the NHS could be specifically exempt from any deal. There are good grounds for that."
In response to De Gucht's latest comments over ISDS, a Labour Party spokesperson issued the following statement to IBTimes UK to reaffirm its position on the matter:
"TTIP is the largest, most complex and significant trade agreement we've seen in decades. We are in support of a trade deal and of the range of benefits that it could bring including the opening of markets for British firms.
"Negotiation of the deal by the relevant authorities is an ongoing process and many details are being worked through.
"While we are supportive overall we have some concerns on the ISDS provisions and TTIP's potential implications on public services especially with regard to the NHS. We would not want the NHS compromised through TTIP and are seeking commitments on this."