Follow-up: “What if corporations could sue governments?”

This is a follow-up post to the meeting on Friday 4th April. Our guest speaker Kat Boettge, the Green Party’s primary EU-election candidate for the East Midlands, recently wrote an opinion piece on the TTIP trade-agreement discussed at the meeting, and this is reproduced below.

The Guardian also has two recent viewpoints, one for and one against:

Here is a reposting of Kat’s opinion-piece (link to original):

At the recent Green Party Conference I attended a workshop on what on the face of it might sound like a not very exciting subject – Bilateral Trade Agreements, with particular reference to the TTIP. By the end of the workshop I realised what a minefield these agreements can be, often leaving Governments open to costly legal action by multinational corporations.

There are many different trade agreements or treaties between different countries. These treaties are agreed between two or more countries to help trade and bring in investment. The negotiations are all confidential and here in the UK they are dealt with by the unelected officials at the Foreign Commonwealth Office. Because of so called commercial confidentiality, little information gets out to the public or even to Parliament.

One of the big concerns of these agreements if that they allow Corporations or companies from one of the countries to sue the government of other country if they occur any losses due to changes of regulations. So if for example a country wanted to stop a company polluting a river, the polluting company could sue the Government for loss of profit. Also if a company believes that it has been treated differently to similar national company or organisation such as the BBC or NHS, it can demand the right to provide the service or sue for loss of profit. If the Government wanted to change the tax regime for business – increasing corporation tax on big business to help pay for public welfare for example, it would be open to a law suit. The disputes that arise between the foreign corporations and the Government are resolved by three arbitrators (one from each side and the third agreed by both), these are corporate lawyers discussing the claims behind closed doors. These cases are not heard by qualified Judges, they are outside the normal legal system which is not recognised by these arbitration tribunals. Yet their decision can cost the tax payer millions of pounds. One of these cases involved an oil drilling company, Occidental that sued Ecuador for losses after the Government demanded that they clean up a river they had polluted; the arbitration tribunal ruled that the government had to pay Occidental $1.77 billion for loss of profit. Scary and scandalous, isn’t it?

The EU is currently negotiating with the US the TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement. This is a bilateral trade agreement, but the biggest ever negotiated and set to make the world’s biggest trading block. Please note that these negotiations are yet again kept confidential by the unelected European Commission. Some Green MEPs from Germany have recently leaked a document outlining the proposed agreement, which has raised considerable concern. The documents suggest that the Commission is about to sign over Europe’s right to set regulations around environmental, health and safety, economic, cultural and social issues. The rights of the Corporations will stand above those of the citizen.

What does this actually mean? For example, if the EU bans a drug due to health risks but a US company has been selling this drug in the EU, the company can then sue the EU for any losses they might occur. In the UK the treaty will give American companies the right to bid for any Government contract, its bid based on the expectancy that the regulations here will be ‘harmonised’ with those of the US. If the Government tries to keep higher standards, or to keep the service provision under its own control, it is open to being sued. This has big implications for the NHS and for state education.

We have endless examples of how badly these trade agreements can impact on our future. I feel confident in saying that the majority of British people would be horrified if they knew the full implications of TTIP. But strangely enough, this is not widely discussed. The Tories, Labour, LibDems and even UKIP are supporting this.

I was recently invited to speak on fracking to the Independent Group seminar of the Local Government Association. The group consisted of Independent, Green and UKIP councillors. I mentioned the TTIP, only the Green Councillor had heard of it, nobody else. I would have thought that at least UKIP would be against signing the UK’s sovereignty over to unelected bureaucrats.

I do not wish to have a future where decisions about our laws, tax and financial funding are being decided in private boardrooms. I do not want to see tax payers money being paid to multinational corporations to protect their profits. This would mean the end of democracy, all in the name of the so-called free market.

I already had some awareness on the controversial TTIP, and I have shared the Green’s serious concerns about losing our UK sovereignty. However, this workshop taught me that in the last decade many countries have already been signing up to similar treaties, and often even the Governments haven’t fully realised the implications of the deals that they are signing up to. TTIP will not be good for the the majority of people in the UK or in Europe, the Green Group in the European Parliament will oppose it. Vote Green on May 22nd to strengthen the Green’s opposition to this undemocratic proposal.

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Bruce Kent speaking in Loughborough

BruceKent

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What if corporations could sue governments?

ttipFriday 4th April, 7:15 pm, Unity House, Fennel Street Loughborough

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – what Nick and Nigel didn’t discuss, and neither will David and Ed.

Plans to create an EU-US single market will allow corporations to sue governments using secretive panels, bypassing courts and parliaments.

A discussion to be introduced by Katharina Boettge

The EU is currently negotiating a new trade agreement with the US, the TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement. This is a bilateral trade agreement, but the biggest ever negotiated and set to make the world’s biggest trading block. These negotiations are yet again kept confidential by the unelected European Commission. Some German Green MEPs have leaked a document outlining the proposed agreement, which suggests that the Commission is about to sign over Europe’s right to set regulations around environmental, health and safety, economic, cultural and social issues. The rights of the Corporations will stand above those of the citizen.

What will this mean? For example, if the EU bans a drug due to health risks but a US company has been selling this drug in the EU, the company can then sue the EU for any losses they might occur. In the UK the treaty will give American companies the right to bid for any Government contract, its bid based on the expectancy that the regulations here will be ‘harmonised’ with those of the US. If the Government tries to keep higher standards, or to keep the service provision under its own control, it is open to being sued. This has big implications for the NHS and for state education.

Katharina Boettge is  the Green Party lead candidate for East Midlands in the European elections and the party’s spokesperson for social care

 

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Leicestershire Disability Action, Demonstration, 1st April

LeicDisAct
Car transport, Loughborough – Leicester return, phone:
Nick 07751 333325
or
Andrew 01509 218492

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Evidence-based policy: fact versus fiction

fact-vs-fictionFriday 21st March, 7:30 pm, Unity House, Fennel Street Loughborough
Discussion to be introduced by Paul Chaplin.
Evidence has played a key role, being followed or ignored — or both — in
each of the following cases:

- The Labour Party’s decision to ignore the recommendations of the Jenkins
Commission on electoral reform (i.e. introducing AV+) in 1998, despite they
themselves having commissioned it.

- Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent and now-discredited research in the late
90s purporting to link the MMR vaccine to autism. The scare caused by this
led to reduced vaccination rates in children, and the number of measles and
mumps cases has risen markedly since.

- The dismissal by the Government in 2009 of Professor David Nutt as chair
of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. He called for a more
evidence-based approach to the formulation of UK drugs policy, which would
for example rank alcohol as more harmful than cannabis, and was accused of
campaigning — which he now does as a result.

- The AV referendum in 2011. Both fiction from the No side of the campaign,
and the failure to clearly present persuasive evidence by the Yes side, led
to a woeful lack of informed debate and discussion.

- The broad success of the focus on rehabilitation over punishment in
Norwegian prisons, reflected by far lower recidivism rates than other
developed countries. Despite this available evidence supporting
rehabilitation, the average UK prison sentence length rose by over 20%
between 2002 and 2012.

I also hope to offer at least a brief look at the other side of the debate,
considering some criticisms of this approach to policy-making.

Original image courtesy of Kittisak / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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SHOPPED ! Do big retailers have an anti-social impact?

StoresFriday 7th March, 7:30 pm, Unity House, Fennel Street Loughborough

Discussion to be introduced by Ray Sutton and Martin Sears.

Ray suggests:
That superstores have a negative impact; he quotes from a statement, put out in 1998, from the government Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions which said: ” Our research has shown that large food stores can have an adverse impact on market towns and district centres………..smaller centres – which are dependent to a large extent on convenience retailing to underpin their function – are most vulnerable to the effects of larger food store developments…..”

Martin says:
The latest ‘in’ campaign is to bash the home grown UK supermarkets and in particular: Tesco. Meanwhile the British subsidiary of the US company that stocks lethal weapons, for sale to virtually anyone who can stand upright and quote the 2nd Amendment, is praised to high heaven in the online anti Tesco comments threads, along with the German Companies who have created a ‘successful’ selling proposition from rubbish looking stores.

This trend is exacerbated by Ukip and others attempting to convince the British public that the ’50s were the golden age in Britain due, in large part, to small shops filled with happy friendly people from across the social strata all mixing together as they trotted from one independent family run specialist shop to the other. Having lived through the ’50s my perception of the reality is very different. However, were Napoleon and Adam Smith both right?

Attacking ‘superstores’ is not the same as discussing the merits or otherwise of supermarket organisations such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s etc. The trend amongst supermarkets is to create ‘convenience’ outlets such as Tesco Express and Sainsbury’s Local. The supersized store is yesterday’s battle and is no longer the issue it was.

John Greenwood asks:
Do local authorities in the UK have the power to create zones with store size caps? These appear to be prevalent in the USA, see: http://www.ilsr.org/rule/store-size-caps/
These caps set a maximum floor area for stores in the zone and appear to be aimed at “big box retailers” such as Wal-Mart. They also can set chain size caps in zones to encourage local businesses.
Should we campaign for local authorities to have and use such powers?
(I am asking this in advance as I shall be chairing this meeting)

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The Film: “The Dirty Thirty”

Dirty Thirty RayJohn Storer House at 7.30 pm on Thursday March 13th
A showing of the film about the “DIRTY 30″striking Leicestershire miners in the miners’ strike of 84/85, with an introduction by the author, David Bell, of a book about the Dirty 30 which contains references to the roles of various people in Loughborough (including Geoff and Ray ), particularly in relation to food collections for miners’ families.  There will be refreshments available. Ray is also hoping to book some of the entertainers who contributed to the recent memorial event for Mike Hamilton. The event is free but a voluntary collection will be taken to cover expenses.

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