From the TUC

Take a stand against the transatlantic corporate power grab

22 Jun 2014, by in International

The most offensive element of the proposed Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process. Unions have forced the European Commission to consult publicly on its inclusion, and a new online tool created by Friends of the Earth and the Austrian trade union movement allows us all to make our opposition heard.

ISDS provides foreign investors with access to unaccountable tribunals, so that they can challenge the actions of democratically elected governments, and claim huge damages if those governments have caused them financial losses – or even potential losses, years down the line. Some of the worst examples include a US pharmaceutical company challenging the Canadian health service’s decision to stop providing costly drugs that don’t work, or a Swedish energy company suing the German government because its decision to go non-nuclear undermines their expectations of profitable contracts far into the future. Including ISDS in TTIP could make Labour’s plans to overturn the privatisation of the NHS under the Health and Social Care Act impossibly costly.

Concerns about ISDS from trade unions and others forced the European Commission to consult the public, but the exercise is badly flawed: it only asks how to improve the process, rather than whether to scrap it altogether. The TUC has submitted evidence that simply opposes ISDS, but the new online tool allows you to click a button that fills in all the detailed questions for you, and sends the same message of opposition to ISDS.

ISDS has been part of many bilateral investment treaties over the years, but it has generally been included in agreements between developed and developing countries. In Europe, the US negotiated ISDS provisions in treaties with Eastern European countries after the fall of communism, but TTIP would extend the reach of US multinationals to countries like France, Germany and the UK (and vice versa). For the last two centuries, US and UK investors have done without the protections ISDS offers (investments are protected by the famous 5th Amendment to the US Constitution and the UK Human Rights Act), and it hasn’t stopped trillions of dollars/pounds of investment crossing the Atlantic.  

The extension of ISDS under TTIP has given the issue far greater prominence and revealed to the public an corporate power-grab over democratic decision-making. A report from the United Nations Conference on Trade And Development (UNCTAD) suggests that the inclusion of ISDS in an agreement that covers the USA and EU would massively expand the investments covered by ISDS, and expand the scope for the main protagonists (UK and US multinationals) to interfere in democratic decisions.

Countries like Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa are increasingly opposed to ISDS provisions in trade treaties, and Ireland – for one – has never signed a treaty with ISDS in it. The French and German governments – and even some Conservative MPs – are concerned about the process and impact of ISDS, and the British Government has published research showing that ISDS will be of no economic benefit to the UK, and would bring substantial political risks. We are hoping that the publicity that TTIP has given to ISDS will not only see it excluded from TTIP, but allow us to remove the process from other investment treaties too – like the UK-Colombia bilateral investment treaty that will be submitted to Parliament soon. We’re working with the Trade Justice Movement and Justice for Colombia to oppose that treaty while it contain s ISDS and fails to guarantee workers’ rights. 

8 Responses to Take a stand against the transatlantic corporate power grab

  1. Harvey Ward
    Jun 23rd 2014, 7:19 am

    The online tool has some problems – when I completed the initial identifier information and then clicked Take Action a message was shown that the URL address is incorrect…I hope this can be fixed asap

  2. Owen Tudor

    Owen Tudor
    Jun 23rd 2014, 7:36 am

    Strange. It worked for the first 2,500-odd, but you’re right, it’s not working now. The Commission site may have been overloaded, so we’ll check it out ASAP.

  3. John Wood

    Jun 23rd 2014, 7:56 am

    Looks to be working again (fingers crossed). I imagine it is not set up for handing a number of responses in a short time and it had a problem with it. I managed to send my message okay so if you have problems, maybe bookmark it and return for another go later.

  4. Robyn Dasey
    Jun 23rd 2014, 11:29 am

    I have just had the same problem. URL address not working.

  5. Owen Tudor

    Owen Tudor
    Jun 23rd 2014, 11:59 am

    Sorry Robyn – this appears to be a sporadic fault, possibly due to overloading (600 more people have submitted comments this way since Harvey originally reported the problem) – we’re exploring what the cause might be and a permanent fix, but sporadic faults are difficult to address! John’s advice to bookmark the site and try again later is probably sensible, although I know it’s frustrating.

  6. Owen Tudor

    Owen Tudor
    Jun 23rd 2014, 8:57 pm

    To anyone still having problems, the designers of the internet tool think it may be a browser problem – it seems to work fine on Mozilla or Google Chrome, but may be problematic on Internet Explorer. But they’re working on a fix anyway. Over 3,500 people have used this tool so far, out of 15,000 responses to the Commission consultation received to date.

  7. Harvey Ward
    Jun 24th 2014, 7:26 am

    Sorry to report that it still isn’t working -I use Safari on an Apple MacBook and not Internet Explorer…fingers crossed that the fix gets sorted !!

  8. MPs will have to take a stand on trade deal investor privileges | ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC
    Jun 29th 2014, 3:00 pm

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