ISDS – short for ‘Investor-state dispute settlement’ – is an obscure parallel legal system only accessible to the super-rich. These corporate courts allow transnational corporations to sue governments outside the national justice system.
A huge range of government policies have been challenged by ISDS, including:
- Infinito Goldis suing Costa Rica over the introduction of a ban on open cast mining for metals
- Cargillsued Mexico when it introduced tax on sugary drinks
- Ethylsued Canada over a ban on the chemical MMT in petrol, which is suspected of causing nerve damage
- Vattenfallis suing Germany for deciding to phase out nuclear power following the Fukushima nuclear disaster
- Lone Pineis suing Canada over a fracking moratorium in Quebec
- Veoliasued Egypt over an increase in the minimum wage.
- Eli Lillysued Canada for trying to access more affordable medicines.
Cases are heard in secretive tribunals, where the law is tailored to uphold investors’ interests – the tribunal won’t try and balance that against the public interest or environmental concerns. The amounts at stake are hundreds of millions and corporations use the threat of a case to pressure governments to change important policy decisions.
ISDS is an unjust mechanism that should have no place in the UK’s trade and investment policy. And right now, we have a chance to get rid of it. Across the world, countries have been rejecting ISDS: South Africa, India, Ecuador, Tanzania, Indonesia and New Zealand have all taken steps to review, limit or terminate existing ISDS deals and refuse to sign new ones. At the same time, the movement against TTIP and CETA – the EU’s trade deals with the USA and Canada – has exposed its illegitimacy. The system is vulnerable.
Campaigners all across Europe are gearing up to create an unstoppable momentum for change in our own countries. We’re at a tipping point, and if enough of us come together, we could bring ISDS down altogether.
As the UK reassesses its trade and investment policy in the light of Brexit, we have an opportunity to ensure that ISDS has no place in it:
- No ISDS in new and replacement trade deals
- Removal of ISDS in existing investment deals