Citizen Action Monitor

SHOCKER — Governments shaft citizens – Secret sellout to corporations in monstrous assault on democracy

New trade rules surrender control to corporations to sue governments, overrule parliaments, undermine citizen rights

No 903­­ Posted by fw, November 5, 2013

“Investor-state rules could be used to smash any attempt to save [national health care] from corporate control, to re-regulate the banks, to curb the greed of the energy companies, to renationalise the railways, to leave fossil fuels in the ground. These rules shut down democratic alternatives. They outlaw left-wing politics. This is why there has been no attempt by our government to inform us about this monstrous assault on democracy, let alone consult us.”George Monbiot

Try to wrap your mind around the implications of this shocking piece by George Monbiot. Read his original article by clicking on the flowing title. Or read below a slightly modified version with added subheadings, minor formatting changes, inline citations in place of endnotes, and text highlighting.

George Carlin may have said it first, undoubtedly, he said it best in his American Dream rant — “You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything.”

A Global Ban on Left-Wing Politics by George Monbiot, www.monbiot.com, November 4, 2013

That’s what the new rules being smuggled into trade agreements are delivering.

Remember that referendum about whether we should create a single market with the United States? You know, the one that asked whether corporations should have the power to strike down our laws? No, I don’t either. Mind you, I spent ten minutes looking for my watch the other day, before I realised I was wearing it. Forgetting about the referendum is another sign of ageing. Because there must have been one, mustn’t there? After all that agonising over whether or not we should stay in the European Union, the government wouldn’t cede our sovereignty to some shadowy, undemocratic body without consulting us. Would it?

New trade rules would grant big business authority to “sue the living daylights out of governments”

The purpose of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is to remove the regulatory differences between the US and European nations. I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago. But I left out the most important issue: the remarkable ability it would grant big business to sue the living daylights out of governments which try to defend their citizens. It would allow a secretive panel of corporate lawyers to overrule the will of parliament and destroy our legal protections. Yet the defenders of our sovereignty say nothing.

“Investor-state dispute settlement” is mechanism already being used to kill regulation protecting people and planet

The mechanism is called investor-state dispute settlement. It’s already being used in many parts of the world to kill regulations protecting people and the living planet.

Here are four recent examples

  • Tobacco company asks tribunal to award it vast sum in compensation for loss of intellectual property decision — The Australian government, after massive debates in and out of parliament, decided that cigarettes should be sold in plain packets, marked only with shocking health warnings. The decision was validated by the Australian supreme court. But, using a trade agreement Australia struck with Hong Kong, the tobacco company Philip Morris has asked an offshore tribunal to award it a vast sum in compensation for the loss of what it calls its intellectual property.
  • Foreign utility companies force Argentina to pay over $1b for governed freeze on energy and water bills — During its financial crisis, and in response to public anger over rocketing charges, Argentina imposed a freeze on people’s energy and water bills (does this sound familiar?). It was sued by the international utility companies whose vast bills had prompted the government to act. For this and other such crimes, it has been forced to pay out over a billion dollars in compensation.
  • Canadian mining company suing El Salvador for $315m for refusing to permit gold mine that threatened to contaminate water —  In El Salvador, local communities managed at great cost (three campaigners were murdered) to persuade the government to refuse permission for a vast gold mine which threatened to contaminate their water supplies. A victory for democracy? Not for long perhaps. The Canadian company which sought to dig the mine is now suing El Salvador for $315m – for the loss of its anticipated future profits.
  • Eli Lilly suing Canadian government for $500m for revoking two drug patents — In Canada, the courts revoked two patents owned by the US drugs firm Eli Lilly, on the grounds that the company had not produced enough evidence that they had the beneficial effects it claimed. Eli Lilly is now suing the Canadian government for $500m, and demanding that Canada’s patent laws are changed.

New rules embedded in treaties are enforced by corporate controlled panels that meet in secret hearings

These companies (and hundreds of others) are using the investor-state dispute rules embedded in trade treaties signed by the countries they are suing. The rules are enforced by panels which have none of the safeguards we expect in our own courts. The hearings are held in secret. The judges are corporate lawyers, many of whom work for corporations of the kind whose cases they hear. Citizens and communities affected by their decisions have no legal standing. There is no right of appeal on the merits of the case. Yet they can overthrow the sovereignty of parliaments and the rulings of supreme courts.

Tribunal judge admits his amazement at sovereign states agreeing to investment arbitration

You don’t believe it? Here’s what one of the judges on these tribunals says about his work. “When I wake up at night and think about arbitration, it never ceases to amaze me that sovereign states have agreed to investment arbitration at all … Three private individuals are entrusted with the power to review, without any restriction or appeal procedure, all actions of the government, all decisions of the courts, and all laws and regulations emanating from parliament.”

Citizens have no rights in a privatized justice system for global corporations

There are no corresponding rights for citizens. We can’t use these tribunals to demand better protections from corporate greed. As the Democracy Centre says, this is “a privatised justice system for global corporations.”

“Democracy, as a meaningful proposition, is impossible under these circumstances” says Canadian gov official

Even if these suits don’t succeed, they can exert a powerful chilling effect on legislation. One Canadian government official, speaking about the rules introduced by the North American Free Trade Agreement, remarked, “I’ve seen the letters from the New York and DC law firms coming up to the Canadian government on virtually every new environmental regulation and proposition in the last five years. They involved dry-cleaning chemicals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, patent law. Virtually all of the new initiatives were targeted and most of them never saw the light of day.” Democracy, as a meaningful proposition, is impossible under these circumstances.”

US and European Commission seek to replace sovereign courts with “closed, corrupt system”

This is the system to which we will be subject if the transatlantic treaty goes ahead. The US and the European Commission, both of which have been captured by the corporations they are supposed to regulate, are pressing for investor-state dispute resolution to be included in the agreement.

The Commission justifies this policy by claiming that domestic courts don’t offer corporations sufficient protection because they “might be biased or lack independence.” Which courts is it talking about? Those of the US? Its own member states? It doesn’t say. In fact it fails to produce a single concrete example demonstrating the need for a new, extra-judicial system. It is precisely because our courts are generally not biased or lacking independence that the corporations want to bypass them. The EC seeks to replace open, accountable, sovereign courts with a closed, corrupt system riddled with conflicts of interest and arbitrary powers.

These rules shut down democratic alternatives, outlaw left-wing politics

Investor-state rules could be used to smash any attempt to save the NHS [National Health Service] from corporate control, to re-regulate the banks, to curb the greed of the energy companies, to renationalise the railways, to leave fossil fuels in the ground. These rules shut down democratic alternatives. They outlaw left-wing politics.

This is why there has been no attempt by our government to inform us about this monstrous assault on democracy, let alone consult us. This is why the Conservatives who huff and puff about sovereignty are silent.

Wake up people, we’re being shafted.

SEE ALSO

 

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog, Citizen Action Monitor, may contain copyrighted material that may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I claim no ownership of such materials. Such material, published without profit, is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues. It is published in accordance with the provisions of the 2004 Supreme Court of Canada ruling and its six principle criteria for evaluating fair dealing.

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