Why we need a global fightback against corporate courts
11 February 2019
There are just 46 days until Brexit when the UK will decide on its own trade policy.
As trade secretary Liam Fox discusses trade deals behind closed doors with countries including the US, we are fighting for parliament to have powers to scrutinise and approve trade deals. But it doesn’t end there. We also need to fight against one of the worst parts of trade and investment deals − corporate courts.
These courts, known officially as Investor-State Dispute Settlement or ISDS, enable big business to sue governments for making decisions that threaten their profits. These special powers are exclusive to global investors and allow big business to bypass national courts and get their cases heard in a corporate-friendly court where the law is tailored to their interests.
Around the world, billions of pounds in public money has already been paid out by governments to companies who have sued for policies that protect the environment, public health or workers’ rights. It’s a flagrant elevation of corporate privilege over human rights and it's no wonder this attack on democratic decision-making has sparked resistance.
We first opposed them as part of our campaigns against TTIP and CETA (EU trade deals with US and Canada). These campaigns succeeded in drawing attention to corporate courts in a major way and mobilised widespread opposition to them. Now, the system is facing a crisis of legitimacy as countries such as South Africa, Bolivia, Ecuador, Indonesia and Tanzania have all terminated investment treaties which include ISDS. Government officials, small businesses, academics, trade unions and civil society groups have spoken out against corporate courts. And people are mobilising against them in different parts of the world and across Europe.
This means we have a window of opportunity to push back against this unjust system of corporate privilege. That’s why we are launching a new campaign today, as part of the UK Stop ISDS coalition and in solidarity with campaigners in Europe and around the world, to call for an end to this system of corporate courts. Whatever happens with Brexit, the UK will retain the power to strike its own investment deals with other countries. And the UK ranks in the top three countries globally for the number of companies suing other governments under this system. With just weeks to go before Brexit day, we want to let the government know that corporate courts have no place in UK trade and investment policy.
If we are going to address the dominance of corporate power in driving inequality, marginalisation and poverty – here in the UK and around the world – then now is the time to mobilise together to get rid of corporate courts once and for all.
Join the global campaign to end corporate courts.
Photo: Amanda Kistler/Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)