Exploring the underlying myths of new trade pacts like the TPP. Myth #1–ISDS makes trade secure.
Telling Tales — Last night while the glow of dusk was settling, through the trees I glimpsed an ancient creature. Its wide eyes glinting in the shifting light. As I moved closer, this magnificent being vanished abruptly, leaving no trace of hoof or horn. Unicorns, like fairies and other mythical creatures, arouse joy and awaken non-linear capacity. However, some myths do ferocious harm. Corporate globalization is based on the myth of trickle down — this ideology suggests that if we remove barriers from mega corporations to wealth, their amassed profit will trickle down to all communities below. ISDS, Investor State Dispute Settlement, is how trickle down is enforced and a legal mechanism for global trade pacts. Repackaged in abstract terminology, trade documents can appear distant from our lives. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Trade is restructuring how communities of species, workers, politicians, and more, operate. This epic mythology has a foot-hold in an unexpected area – international law. A corporate legal system, exemplified in ISDS, is the foundation of 2600 Bilateral Investment Treaties (BIT’s) and 300 free trade agreements (FTA’s). Trade law explicitly limits the power of nations to uphold social, environmental and labour laws, while presiding over the profits of transnationals. ISDS symbolizes the worst in globalization’s ethos — a hunger to possess more at the expense of others.
The Trojan Horse – The unicorn is miniscule compared to the new ISDS trade deals, often depicted as Trojan horses, because of their secrecy and all the restrictions to social regulations that come to light after implemented. ISDS gained prominence in 1994 under the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA ventured into territory far beyond goods and changed environmental, social and labour rulings in its signatory countries: the US, Mexico and Canada. It was falsely argued that a special court system was needed to protect company assets against Mexican courts. Under NAFTA, about twenty-two cases have been launched against Mexico, costing the Mexican people millions in fines, and plenty to their environment, jobs and quality of life. However, Mexico has not sued any corporations under NAFTA for environmental, social, cultural and labour threats, because ISDS has no mechanism to uphold the policies of nations.
The New Breed of Trade — ISDS now drives the trade program of most of the world’s highest GDP countries through BITs and FTAs. The goal is to have one large body governing all states under corporate law. This plan is in sight with the huge multilateral deals in negotiation right now — the TTP, TTIP, and CETA. The TTP is processing rapidly and ISDS is believed to be its foundation. This is highly likely, not only because of the content of a leaked TPP document, but because the lawsuits are the enforcement norm of key countries negotiating the deal, and promoters call the TPP “NAFTA-plus”. The TPP text is not allowed to be seen by the public or the vast majority of elected representatives; apparently it’s unviewable until 4 years post-ratification.
The TPP’s Wide Gait – The TPP is for the investors of the NAFTA countries, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Some key topics of this deal are access to patents & affordable drugs, and copyright & limitations to internet communication. People are also quite worried about food safety issues: increased pesticide residue levels, additives and bans on GMO labeling. In the US last week, despite public outcry and leadership from politicians in both parties, fast-track authority was granted to give the president more control over the implementation of the TPP. Now, no American government representatives can request amendments on the deal, but only vote yes or no on its implementation. Earlier this month, April 18 2015, there were over 400 global events resisting the TPP and a massive Trojan Horse structure appeared at many protests. This dark horse does not bring trade security or strength. This type of trade does inflame the public because of its gross interpretation of law.
Reclaiming International Law –What would trade look like of another breed, one that embodied healing for the generations coming to this beautiful planet? A truly new generation trade would help realize the dream to protect public Commons — water, energy, climate, and more. It’s time to reign in the wild imaginations of extreme profit and reclaim international law. The unicorn loving generation, and the rest of us, have right to an international legal system that brings security to the planet and restricts cutthroat economics. What about a world where people enjoy the beauty of mythology without the kind that creates generational fog and despair. Modern trade regimes are full of concepts that just don’t exist in the real economy or the real world. Years from now, these will be viewed with sad astonishment. But for now, our trade reality is incongruent with basic community goals on every continent. We must champion our deepest wishes for true security and lead this animal down a different track.