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Trinational Coalition Demands ISDS Be Removed From New NAFTA Proposal

As Battle Over NAFTA Investor Protections Heats Up, Trinational Coalition Delivers 400,000 Petitions Demanding Elimination of Corporate Rights and Tribunals

Investor-State Dispute Settlement Becomes Key Measure of Whether NAFTA Renegotiations Will Benefit Working People or Expand Corporate Power 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Growing public opposition to the expansive corporate privileges at the heart of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took center stage as the fourth round of NAFTA talks began today in Washington, D.C. U.S., Mexican and Canadian civil society organizations delivered more than 400,000 petitions demanding that NAFTA’s expansive corporate rights and protections and Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) be eliminated during renegotiations.

“If you want to know how trade deals like NAFTA have been rigged against working people and our communities, all you need to do is to look at the Investor-State Dispute Settlement process,” said Chris Shelton, president, Communications Workers of America.

“Americans want trade deals that will add new protections for our environment, create American jobs and raising wages, not another corporate giveaway by a phony populist like Trump, said CREDO political director Murshed Zaheed. “If Trump doesn’t use NAFTA renegotiation to eliminate the Investor State Dispute Settlement provision it will further expose his administration as craven crony capitalists masquerading as faux populists.”

“The Teamsters are North America’s supply chain union. With members in long-haul trucking and freight rail, air, at ports and in warehouses, as well as members in manufacturing and food processing, this union has a big stake in trade policy reform,” said Jim Hoffa, general president, Teamsters. “We will be monitoring the modernization of a flawed and failed NAFTA, and fighting to make sure that the new NAFTA works for working families.”

U.S. officials are expected to table a proposal on the controversial NAFTA investment chapter during this week’s negotiations. NAFTA’s investor protections and ISDS make it less risky and expensive for corporations to outsource jobs and empower them to attack domestic policies that protect public health and the environment by going before tribunals of three corporate lawyers who can order unlimited compensation to be paid to the corporations by taxpayers.

Last month, more than 100 small business leaders sent a letter calling for elimination of ISDS in NAFTA. Organizations representing U.S. state legislatures and state attorneys general and hundreds of prominent economics and law professors also have declared opposition to ISDS, as has a group of Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Conservative U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has warned about the threat of ISDS. But corporate interests are scrambling to defend the controversial regime they use to attack domestic laws and raid taxpayer funds.

While just 50 known ISDS cases were launched in the first three decades of this shadow legal system, corporations have launched more than 50 claims in each of the past six years. More than $392 million in compensation has already been paid out to corporations to date after NAFTA ISDS attacks on oil, gas, water and timber policies, toxics bans, health and safety measures, and more. More than $36 billion in NAFTA ISDS attacks are pending.

“People from the Yukon to the Yucatan are united in demanding an end to NAFTA’s corporate privileges that promote job outsourcing, lower wages and attacks on health safeguards,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “A NAFTA replacement deal that benefits people and the planet cannot grant corporations powers to skirt our laws and courts and demand unlimited taxpayer compensation from tribunals of corporate lawyers.”

“NAFTA is strewn with handouts to corporate polluters that must be eliminated, starting with the free pass for chronic job offshorers to attack air, water, and climate protections in tribunals of corporate lawyers,” said Ben Beachy, director of Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program. “Any NAFTA replacement must stop protecting multinational corporations and start protecting the workers and communities across North America who have endured decades of damage under this raw deal.”

“ISDS makes big corporations feel safer moving jobs around the globe to wherever workers are the most exploited and environmental regulations are the weakest, and it also puts democratically-enacted public interest laws in jeopardy both at home and abroad,” said Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign. “While many changes are needed to make a NAFTA replacement deal work for working families and the planet, if trade negotiators maintain ISDS, we’ll know the NAFTA renegotiation has been hijacked by special interests intent on preserving corporate power.”

“ISDS effectively usurps democratic governance, and makes it impossible for elected governments to create policy that benefits ordinary citizens without the threat of a corporate lawsuit,” said Carli Stevenson, campaigner, Demand Progress. “As we fight to preserve the free and open internet in the United States, we stand with activists worldwide against attempts by any corporation to use trade agreements to make their profits sacrosanct and act against the interests of citizens, workers, and consumers. ISDS should not be a part of any trade agreement.”

“ISDS empowers mega-corporations to attack democratic values, human rights, and environmental protections and force governments to award their corruption and greed with unlimited payments of our tax dollars,” said Matt Nelson, Executive Director of Presente Action. “The reality is clear, forces pushing the ISDS have no loyalty to their governments or the people, only to their pipedreams to rule our public institutions like their own private castles.”

“Investor-State Dispute Settlement puts power in the hands of international tribunal that do not have the best interests of workers, public health, and the environment, but rather benefit corporations looking to make a profit or gain more power,” said Patrick Carolan, executive director, Franciscan Action Network. “This is not in line with Catholic Social Teaching and Franciscan values which emphasizes the need for just and fair laws for all people.”

“Big Pharma is already demanding more extensive provisions on intellectual property in NAFTA to extend their market monopolies on medicines even longer. At the same time, it’s also pushing to expand NAFTA’s investment chapter to include intellectual property claims. This would mean pharmaceutical giants could use the system of closed-door tribunals to try to overturn important, long-standing features of a country’s laws on patents or other aspects of intellectual property, in pursuit of yet more profits for the one of the most profitable industries in the world, said Richard Elliott, executive director, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.

TransCanada Files Lawsuit Against The US Gov Over Rejection Of Keystone Pipeline

TransCanada Lawsuit Over Keystone Pipeline Heightens Fears Of Future Free-Trade Agreements

This week news broke that the Canadian company behind the Keystone XL pipeline is using the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to compel the United States to pay $15 million dollars or allow them to build the rejected pipeline. Using the ISDS to force the United States to build the Keystone Pipeline heightens fears brought forward by Senators Warren and Sanders of the expanded use of the ISDS in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Politico reports in, “Obama hit with NAFTA challenge over Keystone pipeline” that TransCanada has filed two challenges to the rejection of the pipeline by the US State Department and the Obama administration.

“The legal challenges are unlikely to undo the rejection by Obama, but they may yet revive the lengthy political battle over the controversial Canada-to-Texas pipeline that shook up the oil industry and helped the White House cement its environmental legacy,” wrote Politico.

“…Under NAFTA, disputes between companies and foreign governments must go before an international tribunal with the power to award monetary damages — but not reverse the pipeline’s rejection. A win by TransCanada would mark the first U.S. loss in the international dispute system used under NAFTA, which has come under fire from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other liberal critics of free-trade deals,” Politico continued.

Bill McKibben, co-founder of climate activist group 350.org, said in an email to Politico that the NAFTA challenge “is going to remind Americans how much of our sovereignty these treaties give away.”

If TransCanada can use the ISDS to force the United States to mandate that construction of the Keystone Pipeline what could other countries force the US to do?

Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke directly to the provisions of the ISDS in the newly proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership back in February of 2015.

“This provision fundamentally tilts the playing field further in favor of big multi-national corporations, worse yet it undermines U.S. sovereignty,” said Warren.

“If a Vietnamese company with U.S. operations wants to challenge an increase in the U.S. minimum wage it can use ISDS,” continued Warren. “If an American labor union believes the Vietnamese companies are paying slave labor wages in violation of trade commitments, the union has to try to wind itself through the Vietnamese courts. Good luck with that.”

Even the head of CATO Institute Trade Policy said, [ISDS] “Raises serious questions about democratic accountability, sovereignty, checks and balances, and the separation of power… These concerns about ISDS are ones the Libertarians and other free market advocates should share.”

These massive giveaways to multi-national corporations are just one of the many reasons conservatives and progressives alike should oppose the TPP.

“Progressives should oppose ISDS because it allows big multi-nationals to weaken labor and environmental rules,” concluded Warren. “So long as TPP includes Investor State Dispute Settlement the only winners will be international corporations.”

Please help us to encourage Senators Shaheen and Ayotte to rescind their previous support of the TPP and vote against the TPP legislation when it comes up this year. We would like to thank Congresswoman Annie Kuster for standing against this disastrous trade agreement and encourage her to stand strong.
Please sign the petitions below.

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