By Grania Marcus and John Huber
Everyone knows about ISIS, the Islamic State that has produced horrific videos of
beheadings and executions in the Middle East, and nearly everyone agrees that ISIS is extremely dangerous. ISDS? You’ve never heard of it? That’s no surprise, because multinational corporations and the politicians that benefit from their political donations don’t want you to know about it.
ISDS stands for Investor State Dispute Settlement, a process for settling disputes between signatories to trade/investor agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership, which has been negotiated in secret for the past 5 years. This innocuous sounding title hides an odious reality. (See “U.S. Trade Policy Facing a U Turn,” Democrat and Chronicle, April 9, 2015, for other objections to the Trans Pacific Partnership.)
The countries that sign on to the TPP, including the United States, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Australia, Vietnam and Singapore, will agree to the dramatic expansion of the power of multi-national corporations to use closed-door challenges that supersede domestic laws.
The judges in these tribunals are corporate lawyers who are not subject to normal conflict-of-interest rules.
The ISDS language found in past U.S. agreements has already allowed these tribunals to order billions in compensation to foreign corporate investors who are attacking sovereign water and energy policies, and environmental, health, and safety protections, and more.
Nearly all ISDS decisions have gone against the nations being sued, and their taxpayers are therefore on the hook to pay the billions in so-called “damages.” Even worse, the decisions of these tribunals are not reviewable by any court, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
Under ISDS provisions of the TPP, U.S. laws and regulations that keep our workers
protected from child labor and extremely low wages, for example, could be challenged if they result in diminished profits for a foreign investor corporation. ISDS is a fundamentally undemocratic process, which places corporate profits above the people of signatory nations and allows corporations to overrule the laws passed by the elected representatives of sovereign nations.
Americans need to stop this. Fast Track legislation (Trade Promotion Authority) may be voted on as soon as April 13, which means that the TPP would be subject only to an up or down vote in Congress, without debate or amendments allowed. This is a travesty of democracy. Call your Senators and Congressional Representative now and tell them: NO FAST TRACK! NO TPP!
ISDS is certainly more threatening to American sovereignty and democracy than ISIS.