This week, the Sierra Club and nearly 200 organizations from the United States, Europe, and across the world joined together in a sending a simple, clear, and decisive statement to the United States Trade Representative Michael Froman and European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht: Keep investor-state dispute settlement out of the U.S.-EU trade pact.
The letter was delivered to the policy makers at the start of this week's negotiations for the trade pact between the U.S. and the EU, officially called the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP.
Investor-state dispute settlement would give corporations just what they want -- new, broad rights, including the right to directly challenge government policies and actions that corporations allege reduce their profits. Such cases would be heard in private tribunals for unlimited cash compensation.
Now, one might wonder why corporations are being given such broad powers in a so-called trade agreement? The secret is now out: This trade deal isn't really about trade.
Corporations including Chevron and ExxonMobil have used similar rules in existing trade and investment pacts to challenge more than 500 policies of 95 governments. These cases are being used more and more often to attack public interest policies related to clean energy, land use, health, and labor. And this new, proposed agreement with the EU could lead to more attacks on public interest policies, especially because of the vast number of companies cross-registered in both the U.S. and the EU.
That's why this week, nearly 200 environmental, labor, consumer rights, food and farm, and social justice organizations stated our opposition to investor-state dispute settlement. Our organizations pointed out that investor-state dispute settlement forces governments to use taxpayer funds to compensate corporations for public health, environmental, labor, and other public interest policies and government actions. It undermines democratic decision making. And it is completely unnecessary given that European and U.S. legal systems are more than capable of handling investment disputes.