Think about a protection racket. According to Cambridge Dictionaries Online, they are “a situation in which a criminal group demands money from a store owner, company, etc. in exchange for agreeing not to harm them.” The draft Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) Chapter in the Trans-Pacific Partnership has a lot of similarities. The major difference is the “criminal group” would be foreign, transnational corporations.
Consider how the ISDS tribunals would function:
- a corporation can sue a signatory nation if the country deprives the transnational corporation (TNC) of expected profits by enacting laws that prohibit the company from selling harmful products, damaging the environment, or exploiting workers,
- no government can use these tribunals to sue any foreign, transnational corporation,
- arbitrators (the judges in the tribunals) are paid $600-700 an hour, giving them little incentive to dismiss cases out of hand,
- these arbitrators serve as both judges on some cases and lawyers for transnational corporations on other cases which is a clear conflict of interest,
- studies based on empirical research by Gus Van Harten make a convincing case that arbitrator bias in favor of the TNCs is real,
- each case is decided by corporate judges with no requirement to consider precedent,
- there is no appeals process; all decisions are final,
- the TPP would empower 9,000 additional foreign corporations to sue the United States,
- settlements paid to the foreign transnational corporations come from increased taxes.
In New York, Governor Cuomo has instituted a ban on the hydrofracturing of shale rock for natural gas extraction. Some foreign gas-drilling corporation could sue, using one of these tribunals, for profits lost because the Governor is protecting the health of the state’s citizens from the ill health effects of fracking. Tax-payers would have to cough up the settlement, however much these corporate tribunals decide the corporation suing NY did not make.
Instead of hypothetical possibility, consider when three countries wanted to discourage smoking by its citizens, a tobacco corporation has used the World Bank/UN-based tribunals to sue those nation’s governments for millions of dollars of lost revenues. During the February 15th episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, he explained how Phillip Morris sued the governments of Australia, Uruguay and Togo in a funny and disturbing segment called “Tobacco.” Readers are encouraged to stop reading and spend the 18 minutes to watch that YouTube video if you have not yet seen it, and continue reading for an action plan to stop the expansion of these tribunals.
Count on international, corporate rule, i.e., the TPP, to put profits, even projected profits, ahead of the health, safety and welfare of people in twelve countries. These trade tribunals are a situation where a foreign corporations demand money from a government in exchange to not harm the citizens of that state. How is this not mafia-type governance?
Populist Jim Hightower called this struggle against the TPP a “When in the course of human events” type moment. Indeed, the fight over these rigged regulatory regimes the Obama administration falsely refers to as “free trade agreements” is a pivotal moment in American history. We, the people, will defeat these corporate-crafted coups des lois, or we will lose self-government, perhaps forever. We must fight against this attempted coup des lois now, or we will have to have a revolution later.
What you can do to help preserve self government:
- call Congress and speak with your Senators’ and Representative’s staffers. The number is: (202) 224-3121. Call early and often, and tell them to vote “no” for fast-track authority and “no” on the TPP,
- share this article with your friends, relatives and everyone you know in emails and on social media,
- organize to make your town, city or county a TPP-Free Zone.
There can be no higher priority than stopping the unconstitutional “fast-track authority,” which would grease the skids for these un-American, rigged mafia-like regimes.