I wrote this letter to send to the “Online public consultation on investment protection and investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement (TTIP)” of the European Union.
“It has come to my attention that there are ongoing negotiations about including an Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) into the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP). Through this letter, I would like to express my concerns for these plans. I will do so by expressing my thoughts in a simple manner, for my feelings are so strong that I think just displaying the concept of the problem should be enough to convince you.
I think we can agree that concepts such as the economy, governments and collaborations between countries were once invented to help people to live happily, safely and healthy; and to continue to do so for a long, long time. A government of a country, or union of governments such as EU, represents the people to do exactly that: make sure that all citizens can be protected by their human rights.
Of course, governments are not perfect, which is why people can appeal to the independent judiciary which is empowered to tap governments on the knuckles if necessary. I think it is obvious that it is extremely important that the judiciary is organized in an independent and transparent way. Otherwise, people may be unjustly convicted and/or for the completely wrong reasons.
So far so good. Now, in the current system, however, the power has been shifting from governments to large investors and multinationals. They control more and more of the money circulating in our economy and due to their international character, they can operate almost without having to answer to governments. This has been made extremely clear by the recent scandals about tax evasions, or the difficulties that governments have to enforce environmental regulation.
This power shift in itself is already a big problem because, in contrary to governments, the main interest of companies is not driven by, or even affected by, ethical choices. Nor are they enforced to be transparent about their actions. They simply don’t represent the people, but their shareholders. And by design, they are pushed to grow, make profits and earn as much as possible from their customers; a direct consequence of the capitalistic design of the economy, which was supposed to help people, right? And especially now that multinationals are becoming ‘too big too fail’, but mostly too big to control by governments, you can see how people are simply not protected any more against the institutes that hold the most power.
Now, on top of all of this, by including the ISDS in the TTIP, companies shall be allowed to sue the governments of countries. Which means that apart from the fact that they already effectively held all the power by having most of the money, they can also directly enforce their way on to governments that they might disagree with. So, companies, which represent shareholders and who are not bound by ethical motives but profitable ones, get to enforce their way on governments, that are supposed to protect the people and the country. Doesn’t that sound insane?
But it gets worse. Before, I stated the importance of independency and transparency of a court. It should be clear what were the reasons of a certain verdict, but most importantly the judges should be completely independent. In the proposal that is discussed now, however, the companies don’t get to sue governments in the normal court. No, their case will be judged by three top lawyers that will come to a conclusion behind closed doors. And there is no way of reassuring that these top lawyers are not also frequently representing the companies in other lawsuits. That does not sound independent to me at all!
I hope it is now clear why I feel so strongly about this and felt compelled to write this letter to you. I see nothing but horrible consequences from this proposal. If you ask me, we should be restricting the multinationals and force them to obey laws concerning taxes and protection of nature for example, instead of giving them extra power to ignore all this.