* Delay highlights doubts in Europe over benefits of deal
* Concern focuses on how companies can settle disputes
By Robin Emmott
BRUSSELS, June 9 The European Parliament failed
on Tuesday to agree a unified stance on a proposed trade deal
with the United States, postponing a vote that was meant to
cement its support for the biggest accord of its kind.
The failure to agree on a resolution meant that the
parliament would merely debate the proposed deal in Strasbourg
on Wednesday, but not hold a vote, highlighting the growing
doubts in the European Union about its benefits.
Negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment
Partnership (TTIP), which would encompass a third of world
trade, are still under way but, because the parliament has the
power to reject any final deal, it must set out its position
during the process.
EU lawmakers preparing the resolution received more than 200
proposed amendments, meaning it was highly unlikely to pass,
prompting parliament president Martin Schulz to postpone the
vote to avoid the public embarrassment of having the resolution
"One could call it failure," tweeted centre-right lawmaker
Daniel Caspary of the European People's Party (EPP).
Far-left, far-right and Green lawmakers who are determined
to block the pact seized on the postponement as a sign that the
deal was in danger, but aides to centre-right and centre-left
lawmakers told Reuters that a vote was still likely to be held
after the summer.
"The European Parliament's establishment in is panic that
the vote will reveal the clear divisions," said French Green
While an accord will not be ready before 2016, the European
Parliament must establish its position much as the U.S. Congress
must decide whether to grant President Barack Obama "fast-track"
powers to negotiate trade deals.
The parliament's positions have become harder to predict
since last year's European elections, in which anti-EU parties
Much of the discord focuses on how companies settle disputes
under the pact; lawmakers fear that U.S. multinationals will
challenge European laws on grounds that they restrict free
Washington says it considers the issue of investment
arbitration non-negotiable because EU governments have secured
some 1,400 investment protection agreements since the 1960s.
Critics of the deal also fear it will be detrimental to food
safety and the environment.
"It is high time for the negotiators to take stock and stop
the negotiations," said Natacha Cingotti, a campaigner at
Friends of the Earth Europe.
(Editing by Kevin Liffey)