Trade terms for the rest of us.
Arbitration — Think arbitrary law-making by the un-elected. When a transnational corporation sues a country for loss of anticipated profits under a trade deal, the case goes to trade arbitration presided over by three private lawyers. Even though these courts are run by private interests, with no public mandate or representation, decisions from arbitration supersede those of national courts.
Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) — Think public assets given away to foreign management BIT by BIT. A common treaty that gives market access to corporations in two host countries. Assets from natural resources to public services are typically the content. First constructed in the 1950’s, BITs give legal leverage to transnational corporations for running public assets and shaping public policy.
CETA — Think Comprehensive Economic Takeover of Assets. The pending Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement between Canada (CAN) and the European Union (EU) is the foundation for the US – EU’s TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). The CETA’s design is based in ISDS — giving corporations legal capacity to sue countries for profits in sectors that have been opened for trade. Critics highlight ISDS, agriculture, energy, costs of pharmaceuticals, and loss of control over municipal procurement as major concerns. Over forty Canadian municipalities and associations have requested to be excluded. None have been granted.
Chill Effect — Think a freeze on democracy. New generation trade deals are framed through Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). This is a lawsuit mechanism that enables one-way suits from corporations to countries in closed courts run by unelected officials. To avoid heavy fees and fines, nations have been abandoning laws or scrapping innovative policy. Chill Effect can be more damaging to culture and democracy than the lawsuits themselves. For example: the plan for Ontario public auto insurance was cancelled because of threat of lawsuit under NAFTA.
Discriminatory — Think inversion of the concept of discrimination. Under trade law, corporations are said to be discriminated against if public rights diminish profits in areas guaranteed in the text. Any profit restriction placed on a corporation by national or local policy can be labeled discriminatory under the new treaties.
Expropriation — Think inappropriate exercising of power. A fundamental value of the new trade is the protection of a corporation’s assets. Expropriation as a legal concept was created to protect the rightful ownership of physical property of businesses from the state. With the new trade, expropriation is defined in a blurry way — public policy can be labelled “tantamount to expropriation” for stealing not physical assets of corporations but anticipated profits. This has held true even if the expected profit yield is decreased to uphold laws and regulations.
Intellectual Property Rights (IP) — Think over-intellectualizing of property rights for the purpose of increasing monopoly for large corporations. IP in trade can be used not just for its regular purpose of protecting conceptual property, but also to grant special authority to large corporations. For example: in the TPP, brand-name pharmaceutical companies have been given exclusive rights to monopolize the market to the exclusion of generic cheaper options of the patients.
Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) — Think of an Investor’s State superimposed on a nation state. This style of trade is critiqued for being dangerous to sovereign public process and the stability of a country. Since its creation in NAFTA chapter 11, 1994, there have been numerous lawsuits launched against Canada (35), American (20) and Mexican (22) laws and policy, (as of January 2015). ISDS has become the norm though a growing number of countries such as Brazil, Germany, South Africa, etc, are critical of Investor State, some refusing to sign deals that include it.
Minimum Standard of Treatment — Think minimum standards for treatment of the public. A common reason corporations launch an ISDS case is to plead Minimum Standard of Treatment. This requires a country to treat all foreign corporations the same when making decisions of procurement, regardless of their track record on the environment, labour and other social concerns. If a country does not treat all corporations equally, they are criticized for holding a bias and can be sued using ISDS.
Most Favoured Nation (MFN) Treatment — Think raising profit rights above all other standards. A legally-binding guarantee that corporations hosted by countries bound by a trade deal are treated equal to all other entities inside the country in regard to access to new contracts an regardless of health, labour, social or environmental implications.
Multilateral Investment Treaty (MIT) — Think Multi-country Invitation to Take shared assets from people and deliver them to corporations. An investment treaty between more than two countries. NAFTA is the most infamous multilateral and is said to have set the foundation for all future ones.
NAFTA — Think Normalization of Arrogant Free Trade-aways of the public’s Assets. The North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico came into effect in 1994. This deal normalized the employment of corporate lawsuits against countries. This was not the first time that company to nation lawsuits were launched but since then, the cases for corporate arbitration have risen dramatically — many for infringement of corporate profits from policy that protects the environment.
National Treatment — Think treating a corporation to a nation’s legal rights. A legally-binding guarantee that foreign corporations are treated with equal opportunity to earn money in the nation as local corporations and public entities like crown corporations.
Negative List Approach — Think the certain Negative impacts Approach for future generations.A style of deal that includes all areas in a sectors unless specifically excluded in a chapter of reservations. This means that future markets are included under the new trading rules and corporate courts because they were not named to be protected when the deal was made. For example, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), sustainable technologies not yet invented will suffer the rules of corporate trade courts.
New Generation Trade; also called Next Generation Trade — Think trade that ignores the new generations coming to this beautiful planet. This is trade that includes a version of Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) whether these cases are on record or not. Public services, municipal infrastructure and natural ancient resources make up the key content. Once ratified, these deals are legally-binding by international law, often for many decades, setting new legal and policy precedents on mass.
Ratchet Effect — Think circular increase of investors’ profits. A trade implication where no new regulations adopted by a country’s government can change the rules of a previous trade agreement.
Trade in Services — Think taking the service spirit out of public services by bulk privatization guaranteed in perpetuity through trade. This is trade where public service contracts are permanently opened to foreign management. This can include trade in transportation, education, health, finances, environment, culture, recreation, communications and more. This trade focuses on key assets of communities that we normally imagine under the management of local people and the government for the public good. For example, the Trade in Services Agreement, TISA, is a multilateral deal that focuses on services. Many other deals include a lot of services such as the CETA.
Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)– Think Tremendous Profit for corporate Partners. A new generation trade deal presently being written between twelve nations in North America and the Pacific Rim: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, US, and Vietnam. This new generation deal will set a wide variety of norms for big corporate access to management of services, the food system, internet freedom, copyright, pharmaceuticals and more. This deal is based in ISDS allowing corporations to sue signatory countries for non-compliance to profit needs.
The Commons — Think common hope for friends & families across the globe and the future generations coming to this beautiful planet. The Commons is all that is shared for the benefit of humanity over generations. The Commons includes those things nature made (for example seeds) and human made (like library services). The Commons is a generational legacy for sustainable prosperity and security. The Commons is the key content in the new trade deals.
The New Generations — The people who are coming next. Some of them are already in onesies cuddled up with their teddies and counting on us for a healthy home. With the new trade, we are letting them down in ways we cannot even anticipate. The coming generations require a balance in economy and ecology so they have the natural resources, community infrastructure, and political stability for a secure world. Think about the little people we owe to stand up and learn and speak and act to protect their possibilities.