Thursday, 15 January 2015

Why I Believe That ISDS Is A Threat To Democracy And Public Safety

An open letter to the two Commissioners responsible for special tribunals for corporations, Cecilia Malmström (@MalmstromEU) and Frans Timmermans (@TimmermansEU)



Dear Ms Malmström and Mr Timmermans,

last year I participated in the consultation on the possible inclusion of an ISDS/Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism in an EU-US free trade agreement because things like this scare me.

Can you say "Vattenfall?" I dare say "Phillip Morris" is easier to pronounce. The fact is, if we let the ISDS, an extortioner's charter if ever there was one, be part of a trade agreement with the USA, they will clean us out, gut our health and safety laws, and, like Veolia, work to keep our wages down to keep their profits up.

As for the erroneous notion that they can't or won't influence laws, please can you explain why our government in the UK are trying to rush through a law that permits companies to drill beneath our homes for fracking? Is that not in anticipation of being sued if they don't? Why, in a public consultation on fracking, did they conflate it with geothermal energy, which is inherently clean? Because Cuadrilla will no doubt sue them if the ISDS provisions are included in this secretly negotiated treaty. And by "secret" I mean the details are only available to lobbyists and corporate interests. We the people are not permitted to view the position papers, and those items that have been leaked have been deeply troubling.

I understand it's hard to take a template letter seriously because it may seem to you that the people who email these to you know little of what they are talking about. The truth is, some people know they are not happy, and know what the problem is, but not how to express themselves well. There's also the risk that they could go to the trouble of writing a more personal email like this one, only to have it sent to spam. The fact is, we're not happy and we honestly believe you would rather listen to wealthy corporate lobbyists than those of us who pay your wages.

When former Commissioner for Trade Karel de Gucht talks about our opposition to ACTA and these FTAs as if we are idiots who don't know what's good for us it's easy to think he speaks for all of you. As with ACTA, so with CETA, TTIP, TISA, and any other secret agreement. We will oppose them because they're not being negotiated in our best interests, but in those of foreign corporations whose only interest in us is how much money they can make from us. Keeping the terms and text secret does little to encourage faith in the EC institutions or the officials running them.

Please consider my call for more transparency, openness, and the full and complete inclusion of public interest groups in the negotiation of these treaties, as doing so would get them concluded more quickly and with less opposition, particularly if you exclude threats like investor-state dispute mechanisms. This is Europe. We don't need them here.

Yours sincerely,

Wendy Cockcroft


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Their email addresses are cecilia.malmstrom@ec.europa.eu and frans.timmermans@ec.europa.eu. Add info@no2isds.eu as BCC if you wish, they're keeping track of how many people send these. I made changes to their template email as copypasta is often used as an excuse to ignore us. Indeed, former EU Commissioner for Trade and ACTA fanboy Karel de Gucht has described the opposition we've shown so far as an attack, as if it was a 4chan prank or something. With that in mind, try to be as personal as possible when you email them.

If you can't think of anything, just bear in mind the key points: Investor-state dispute mechanisms give foreign corporations the right to sue governments for lost profits for actions such as legislation to protect public health and the environment, and raising the minimum wage. Vattenfall V Germany, Phillip Morris V Uruguay, and Veolia V Egypt are the main examples. If governments run the risk of being sued for acting in the public interest, this will have a chilling effect on the legislative process and will therefore undermine democracy.

That there has never been a successful ISDS lawsuit against this country doesn't mean there never will be. We haven't got such a provision in place with any of the bigger economies, but Germany had such a deal with Sweden. Do we need to be hit as hard as they were to bring us to our senses? It's no coincidence that Germany has been leading the charge against the ISDS provisions in TTIP and the other FTAs that are floating about. Let's not lag behind them.

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