Above Photo: From waronwant.org
In recent weeks two EU court rulings and a decision taken by Ecuador to scrap its investment treaties have dealt a heavy blow to secretly negotiated, corporate trade deals.
The events have proved a major boost to social movements resisting these toxic deals in the UK and around the world, as part of a wider fight for trade justice and democracy.
Growing opposition to ‘corporate courts’
The decisions have severely dented the deeply undemocratic investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) or ‘corporate court’ system, under which corporations can sue governments for lost future profits.
Corporate courts are effectively taxpayer-funded risk insurance for corporations. Time and again countries around the world have been sued by corporations for lost future profits after taking action to ban nuclear power, safeguard the human right to water or stop harmful mining operations.
In response, a broad opposition to corporate courts has built up across Southern countries, civil society groups, among trade unions, academics, progressive political parties and UN independent experts.
EU states must have a say
In the midst of election campaigning here in the UK, it’s been easy for these somewhat technical stories to pass under the radar.
This is understandable given that two stories come from European Court of Justice rulings and relate to EU trade deals. While many people will presume that EU trade deals are of little relevance to the UK post-Brexit, the UK may well end up copying across existing EU deals, including ongoing deals which contain corporate court provisions.
Beyond this, the ruling that any future EU trade deals including corporate courts must be passed by the national parliaments of EU member states has potentially significant consequences for a future UK-EU deal (anticipated to be negotiated after an interim Brexit trade arrangement is agreed).
Ecuador’s decision and the two EU rulings are significant victories in the fight against unjust trade deals.
Yet still some have cynically tried to spin the events as in line with what the cheerleaders of corporate trade deals wanted. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that these events add to a growing momentum against corporate control of trade deals.
The fightback is growing – and with the help of activists and campaigners across the UK and the rest of the world, it’s a fight we will win.