The case against corporate courts

January 2019
ISDS is an unjust mechanism that should have no place in the UK’s trade and investment policy.
Imagine a world where transnational corporations don’t have to follow the same laws as everyone else, but instead have their own corporate courts, where the law is tailored to their interests. Not courts where the companies are put on trial, but where corporations sue governments for huge sums of money and bully countries to get their own way. It sounds like dystopian science fiction, but corporate courts are real. Formally known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), these special privileges are granted to transnational companies by rules in trade and investment deals. ISDS has enabled corporations to sue countries for doing almost anything they don’t like – environmental protection, regulating finance, renationalising public services, anti-smoking policies, you name it:
  • Infinito Gold is suing Costa Rica over the introduction of a ban on open-cast mining for metals.
  • Cargill sued Mexico when it first introduced tax on sugary drinks.
  • Ethyl sued Canada over a ban on the chemical MMT in petrol, which is suspected of causing nerve damage.
  • Vattenfall is suing Germany for deciding to phase out nuclear power following the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
  • Lone Pine sued Quebec when it introduced a fracking moratorium.
  • Veolia sued Egypt over the introduction of a minimum wage.
Photo © Amanda Kistler/Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
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