Jul 17, 2014
The U.S. could learn a thing or two from Germany. In that country, there is nearly universal opposition to Investor-State Dispute Settlement, the provision the U.S. is pushing for in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership and a proposed deal with European nations.
ISDS is a huge threat to the lives and livelihoods of U.S. workers and citizens because it allows multinational corporations to challenge and often counteract the laws and regulations that citizens and governments have enacted.
We know corporations are not people. They are not countries either and they should not have the ability to rewrite a nation's laws. Multi-nationals can challenge any trading partner's laws if the corporation believes the law will harm its "expected future profits." That isn't cutting it in Germany.
CWA President Larry Cohen, who was recently in Berlin, explains in The Huffington Post why:
"Thanks to a suit brought by the Swedish energy firm Vattenfall against the German government, opposition to ISDS is nearly universal.
"Vattenfall is suing Germany for billions in future lost profits due to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's proclamation that after the horrors of Fukushima, Germany no longer supports nuclear energy development, as Der Spiegel International reports.
"Unfortunately, that decision is apparently not up to the German government and people. Vattenfall believes its future profits come first, and if Germany goes non-nuclear, Vattenfall and presumably others must be paid off based on the inclusion of ISDS as part of trade policy within the European Union.
"There are 500 similar cases of corporate state vs. nation state currently pending in every continent, based on almost every trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement. Veolia, the giant French-based transportation company, is suing Egypt for raising its minimum wage, which would mean higher pay for workers at the Alexandria bus company it owns and thus lower profits. Other lawsuits attack national legislation concerning everything from cigarette labeling to fracking regulation.
"Ironically, back in the U.S., proponents of TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and the more imminent Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) criticize those of us who oppose ISDS as anti-trade Neanderthals. But in my discussions with German leaders last week, it is clear that the U.S. looks like the Neanderthal by supporting ISDS, coupled with dramatic increases here in economic inequality and nearly unlimited influence by corporate America in all aspects of our lives. If [U.S. Trade Representative] Froman proceeds with ISDS in the final version of the TPP, Germans and most other Europeans will never trust a future TTIP, even if there are ISDS carve outs for certain national legislation. They can read the handwriting on the TPP wall very clearly."
On Ed Schultz's radio program this week, Cohen outlined what this means for working people:
"It's environmental regulation. It's safety. It's labor rights. The multinationals companies since NAFTA – and it's not just U.S. deals, it's spread all over – have depended on this being in every one of these trade deal. It's a secret weapon. This is why they actually care about trade deals."
Listen to the full podcast here.