Another Nail In the Coffin Of Corporate Sovereignty, As Massive Asian Trade Deal RCEP Nears Completion Without It

from the ISDS,-what-is-it-good-for? dept

Remember RCEP? The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is a massive trade deal being negotiated by most of South-East Asia — including China and India. Although still little-known, it has been grinding away in the background, and is drawing closer to a final agreement. Almost exactly a year ago Techdirt noted that there were some interesting rumors that corporate sovereignty — officially known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) — might be dropped from the deal. A story in The Malaysian Reserve confirms that is the case:

After missing several deadlines, member countries of the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) have agreed to exclude the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism, a move that might expedite conclusion of the talks by the end of the year.

[Malaysia’s] Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) Minister Datuk Darell Leiking ? said all RCEP member states — 10 Asean countries plus six free trade agreement (FTA) partners namely Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea — have decided to drop the ISDS, but the item could be brought up again within two years of the agreement’s ratification.

So corporate sovereignty is definitely out of the initial agreement, but could, theoretically, be brought back after two years if every participating nation agrees. Despite that slight loophole, this is a significant blow against the entire concept of ISDS. It’s part of a larger trend to drop corporate sovereignty that has been evident for some time now. That still leaves plenty of toxic ISDS clauses in older investment treaties and trade deals, but the tide is definitely turning.

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Comments on “Another Nail In the Coffin Of Corporate Sovereignty, As Massive Asian Trade Deal RCEP Nears Completion Without It”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What in the article makes you think the author thinks the diminishment of ISDS is a problem?

"That still leaves plenty of toxic ISDS clauses in older investment treaties and trade deals, but the tide is definitely turning."

That statement seems to be fairly specific. Maybe you didn’t read to the end?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I know I don’t want to live in a world where corporations not only equate themselves with the rights of humans, but superequate as entities that live on far past that of humans and steal every last power granted to us (American) citizens by the inalienable rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness so that all must serve the Corporate State.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Just to be that guy… those aren’t rights. At least not in America.

"Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness" is from the Declaration of Independence, a document which has never been recognized as legally binding upon anyone.

A corporation is just a group of people. It thus makes sense that it should be subject to the same rights and restrictions as single people. (Or married people, for that matter.) Corporations should not be sovereign and immune to oversight, nor should the government be allowed to steal from or silence people just because those people cooperated.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

As according to the Declaration of Independence, yes. But the Declaration of Independence is no more binding upon any person, corporation, or government than this comment is. (After all, King George didn’t just read it and nod and say "you’re right, you’re independent now." We had to fight his minions for five years after that.)

The Constitution lays out the actual rights assured to people within the jurisdiction of the United States. They are far more specific rights, and thus are much more practical.

Imagine if life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were actually enforceable rights. We could never imprison anyone who wasn’t a murderer, because that would take away their liberty. We could never regulate businesses unless they were trapping or killing people, because it would interfere with the owners’ pursuit of happiness.

They’re certainly good points to have on a moral compass, but make for a really ineffective legal framework.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

"Imagine if life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were actually enforceable rights. We could never imprison anyone who wasn’t a murderer, because that would take away their liberty."

Actually those ARE inalienable and (in theory) enforceable rights…according to the UN declaration of human rights to which the US is indeed a co-signatory. Hence why we can try war criminals in the human rights court in Haague.

Generally speaking the acceptable exceptions to such rights are clearly described – liberty can be infringed if due process is observed, and so on. The right to life is a bit more iffy, as many nations still practice capital punishment and that poses a pretty major issue as there’s no way to address a wrongful execution.

Your point still stands for the most part, as a great many americans appear to take things for granted for which there is absolutely no legal coverage.

urza9814 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Still might be good to include at least a little bit of that information though. Clearly SOMEONE thinks they’re a good idea or the idea wouldn’t have been included in the first place. Is it included purely due to bribes from corporate masters? Does some country think their companies are stronger and more likely to win such cases? Or weaker and in need of special protections? What’s actually driving these clauses?

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

tl:dr; lobbyists.

Per @EPP and other pro-ISDS twerps I’ve argued with online, it’s about upholding the law and protecting foreign corporations from being shafted by their host nations. There seems to be a thought barrier of some kind that rises at the mention of the word "trade," the idea being if you oppose any aspect of a trade agreement, you’re against trade itself. And if you oppose ISDS, you oppose law enforcement.

Basically, the proponents are having their opinions fed to them by lobbyists and it never occurs to them to question what they’re told. None of these people have ever expressed the least bit of concern for ordinary citizens affected by this crap.

When the officers of the corporations believe that it’s their fiduciary duty, first and foremost, to make a profit for their shareholders, they will hammer anything that gets in the way of that, even if it means foisting cigarette advertising, pollution, and other horrors on the rest of us.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"ISDS provisions are not, as reading articles here might suggest, wholly without merit."

Actually yes, they are.

For starters ISDS takes the concept of "equality under the law" and throws it under the bus, alongside most of the concepts of democracy.

I’d say that any concept which requires an entirely different body of law than what is nationally applicable, a separate court system not catered to by national law and having private contract stipulations overriding national law…that is wholly without merit and shouldn’t be expected to be seen outside of a bona fide fascist regime where state and corporation are identical.

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