From the equality of rights springs identity of our highest interests; you cannot subvert your neighbor's rights without striking a dangerous blow at your own. Carl Schurz

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A mutant system

For those of us opposed to neo-liberal corporate rights agreements, given how fervently they have been embraced by the media and political classes, there has been little hope of reversing the rush to sign ever more broad agreements such as CETA,TTIP and TPP.

So it is heartening to see the growing backlash against one of their most egregious sections, the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) regime. These clauses allow foreign corporations to sue governments for any actions (environmental safety etc) that may infringe upon their profitability no matter how beneficial to the public good they may be.

While domestic corporations must go through the legal process, thanks to ISDS clauses foreign ones have access to 3 person secret tribunals whose rulings are final, not open to appeal. A whole industry has formed to man these tribunals with the same people switching sides from case to case, one time defending the corporation the next time the government.

This closed loop has of course resulted in the corporations winning the vast majority of the time.  However opposition to ISDS is starting to have an effect. TTIP negotiations between the US and the EU are held up while the EU studies the matter, as well there are reports that the final text of the Canada/EU agreement CETA is being held up as even the Harper government is getting cold feet regarding the inclusion of ISDS.

The tipping point seems to be Eli Lilly's $500 million NAFTA suit against Canada in a patent dispute. Sometimes corporate greed can be a good thing. Eli Lilly is far from the only such suit facing Canadians, there are in fact many

Here is a great video out of Germany that does a good job of explaining the issues at hand.

* As Alison pointed out click on the cc tab for English subtitles 


  1. Good vid, although it took me a mo to realize I could click CC for English subtitles.

    A particularly egregious ISDS example is Lone Pine Resources vs Canada, challenging Quebec's moratorium on oil and gas fracking beneath the St Lawrence River. Lone Pine is to all intents and purposes a Canadian company with a Canadian management team and all its business based in Alberta, BC, Quebec, and NWT. But it is registered and incorporated in Delaware, the corporate tax haven, so it can sue Canada under NAFTA.

    1. Good Morning Alison, Yes a giant loophole and Lone Pine is far from alone in exploiting it. It is in fact common practice for domestic corporations to use foreign subsidiaries to initiate ISDS challenges,

      While i see little hope in defeating these corporate rights deal even in the long term a victory in ridding ourselves of ISDS would be sweet indeed and hopefully a signal that tide may be beginning to turn.

      BTW thanks for pointing out the cc issue I'll make a note of it.