#ISDS: Government position shows ideology trumps evidence
We’re often told that Governments are committed to ‘evidence-based policy making’, although it often seems that it’s the other way round. Now we see, starkly revealed, how far the UK government’s trade policy is based far more on ideology than evidence. A Freedom of Information request from campaign group Global Justice Now has revealed that the UK Government’s support for including measures to protect foreign investors in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is not only evidence-free, but actually contrary to the only evidence the Government has. The only evidence is a report on “Costs & Benefits of an EU-USA Investor Protection Treaty” commissioned by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and published in 2013 which concluded that:
“In sum, an EU-US investment chapter is likely to provide the UK with few or no benefits. On the other hand, with more than a quarter of a trillion dollars in US FDI stock, the UK exposes itself to a significant measure of costs.”
The report itself is nothing new. Although it was published a few months later in 2013 than the April date on the cover, it has been in the public domain now for two and a half years, and the TUC has been relying on it in lobbying documents, campaigning and blogs ever since to argue against the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions in the EU-US deal (TTIP), the deal with Canada (CETA) and many other new-style trade agreements.
What is surprising – and what the FOI request revealed, is that the Government has no other evidence. So, with the only evidence being against ISDS, there are only two possible reasons for the UK Government’s advocacy of ISDS in TTIP (they went so far as to pull together an alliance of Trade Ministers across the EU to demand that the EU maintain investor protection in trade deals.)
First, they could be convinced that the only way to get the USA to sign TTIP is by including investor protection (assuming that the rest of TTIP’s benefits for the UK outweigh the costs of ISDS.) That was possibly true – the US administration and big business are definitely keen on the ability of big business to sue other governments – until the EU proposed a different version of ISDS called the Investment Court System, which the USA does not support. (Even though the TUC’s analysis is that the new system is just like the old ISDS.)
So the second reason for continuing to back investor protection in TTIP is sheer ideology. The UK Government clearly believes that, despite the evidence that ISDS would be bad for Britain plc, it would nevertheless be good for their friends in big business, and therefore worth doing even though it would harm the rest of us. And that’s the key finding of Global Justice Now’s Freedom of Information request.