Corporate Sovereignty Finally Enters The Political Mainstream

from the yet-another-ratchet-clause dept

Techdirt has been writing about investor-state-dispute settlement (ISDS), aka corporate sovereignty, for more than three years now. During that time, we’ve published well over a hundred articles on the topic. Increasing numbers of people have become aware of the threat that ISDS represents to democracy because of the privileged access it grants companies to a parallel legal system. Now, it seems, it’s beginning to enter the political mainstream around the world.

A couple of weeks ago, the leader of the UK’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, promised to reject TAFTA/TTIP if he were in power, and to vote against it if he were in opposition. One reason for that, he said, was his concerns over:

the facility for corporations to sue national governments if regulations impinged on their profits.

The Labor Party in Australia has also started to make pronouncements about corporate sovereignty:

The opposition’s trade spokeswoman, Penny Wong, said Labor would try to remove so-called investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses from every trade agreement, and every bilateral investment treaty, that Australia has signed.

It means Labor plans to review three major trade agreements concluded by the Abbott-Turnbull governments — with China, Korea, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership — that have ISDS provisions.

That comes at a time when the current Australian government is thinking about doing exactly the opposite:

The Turnbull government is considering adding a controversial provision to the Japan-Australia free-trade agreement that would allow foreign corporations to sue the Australian government.

Here’s why it’s taking that odd course of action:

The negotiations have been triggered by a relatively unknown clause in the Japan-Australia agreement, which was signed by the Abbott government in 2014.

The clause states that if Australia’s government signs any future trade deal with another country that includes an ISDS provision then the Japan-Australia deal would be subject to an automatic review “with a view to establishing” an ISDS provision in it.

The trigger for such a review was the China-Australia free-trade agreement, which came into force on 20 December 2015, because it included an ISDS provision.

In other words, this is yet another “ratchet” clause that ensures changes only ever move in one direction — to the benefit of companies, and against the interests of the public. It’s yet another reason never to include corporate sovereignty chapters in these so-called trade deals.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Comments on “Corporate Sovereignty Finally Enters The Political Mainstream”

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David says:


The clause states that if Australia’s government signs any future trade deal with another country that includes an ISDS provision then the Japan-Australia deal would be subject to an automatic review “with a view to establishing” an ISDS provision in it.

You mean, like a Windows 10 Update becomes a “recommended patch” and is foisted upon users with a variety of tricks legally based on wishy-washy language in the previous “but they would never use it for $x” EULA? And if you close the dialog, it gets scheduled anyway?

“Oh don’t worry about this clause, it’s just reserving a tiny slot in your door for us to keep the tip of our crow bar dry. Standard provision, everybody does that now.”

Anonymous Coward says:

There is not a lot of difference between the Liberals/Nationals and the ALP

Both of these parties are more alike than different these days. I wouldn’t put too much stock in anything that Penny Wong says. She will still jump when told to do so by her political bosses.

It is quite disappointing this time round, we even have various political pundits comparing the too sides as being very close to each other, irrespective of their party trappings.

Both are quite happy to create a police state, both are happy to line their political mates (and their own) pockets at the expense of the public. neither are actually interested in pursuing the programs needed to fix the infrastructure problems in Australia.

And before anyone says the Greens are an alternative, when one actually looks at the details of the Greens policies, all one sees is the utter destruction of Australia for the benefit of a small number of beneficiaries. They are no different form their larger compatriots. There doesn’t appear to be any majors groups that are actually interested in the well-being of the citizens of this great nation.

Ah well, maybe better luck next time. Though if the pollies keep pushing at the good natured citizens, they might find that the good-natured citizen is no more and …..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: There is not a lot of difference between the Liberals/Nationals and the ALP

whilst i agree that the ALP and the LIBS are two sides of the same coin, Wong has repeatedly spoken out against her own party. Also what Greens policies are you talking about mate? Ludlum has received a few mentions on techdirt for his statements regarding internet freedoms. they wish to remove negative gearing, improve health and education along with various other pro people policies. are you scared they might try and take your bolt action?

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Behold my fancy tin-foil beanie!

Seriously, this is totally a means by which the people are ultimately silenced in favor of global corporate oligarchy.

It’s the New World Order: no voice for the people.

If someone knows how I’ve gone conspiracy-theory mad and corporate sovereignty isn’t exactly all that please explain it to me. Because I know it sounds crazy paranoid, yet it seems to be true.

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