American firms dictating our laws

Hello. I wrote this thing at work, and I feel so strongly about half of it that I’m quoting myself:

Round two of negotiations for TTIP, the transatlantic trade deal between the EU and America, kicks off this week. On Friday former Prime Minister John Major spoke of the ‘truly shocking’ state of Britain, in which ‘the upper echelons of power in 2013 are held overwhelmingly by the privately educated or the affluent‘. Nowhere is this more evident than the EU debate, where the ‘pro’ side is dominated by big-business interests keen to safeguard their profit margins.

Anna’s Friday blog, which discussed the Snowden whistleblowing’s impact on negotiations, mentioned the threat posed by TTIP ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ (ISDS) provision. This mechanism:

Gives companies the right to sue governments if they feel the local legislation is discriminatory…Huge companies can undermine democracy and public opinion by going outside national legal systems to interfere with something as important as a health proposal.’

This is such a serious threat that I felt I’d give some more detail. Remember, the EU is already a body seriously lacking in democratic accountability. What Have We Done? by David Green explains that EU membership means the British people can no longer dismiss their own government. Laws are drafted by the unaccountable Commission, reviewed in secret by a Byzantine comitology system, and voted for, often in private, by Council and Parliament which routinely sidestep scrutiny.  Qualified Majority Voting means laws can be forced on Britain against parliament’s wishes. The Eurozone ‘enhanced cooperation’ system means Britain might be affected by laws upon which it wasn’t even consulted, such as the Tobin Tax.

The additional onus of an ISDS with leviathan American corporations, then, is a menace to democracy uniting left and right. Australia, which is being sued by tobacco giant Philip Morris over its plain-packaging cigarette law, announced its intention to discontinue the principle, since it gave foreign firms greater legal power than domestic companies (which can only appeal to national courts). US drugs firm Eli Lilly is suing Canada for refusing to grant it a monopoly.  A former ISDS arbitrator wrote:

…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.’

That European firms could do the same to the USA isn’t really reassuring for anyone outside a FTSE company boardroom.

The George Monbiot article, TechDirt essay and Corporate Europe’s piece all make rather scary reads.

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