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Tory International Trade Deals Threaten UK Health And Safety And Environmental Standards

All trade deals with the USA and many other countries too outside of the EU, include the ability of whole countries to be sued in secret courts as part of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (IDS) element of these deals, which Liam Fox current International Trade Secretary is championing and without allowing any scrutiny of the deals he is currently negotiating out with the US.

Pic: Click the pic to sign petitionCorporations are using secretive courts to sue governments for policies such as raising the minimum wage, introducing rules to protect the environment, banning carcinogenic chemicals in food, and putting health warnings on cigarette packaging. Any health and safety at work legislation which will impact in any way on profits, are also targetted by big business, as exemplified by US Commerce demanding that glysophate, GM foods and climate change regulations are minimised in order to ensure 'barriers to commerce are minimised or removed altogther.

So, this is mere scaremongering is it?

Well here are just five examples of what is already happening to some countries as a result of environmental protection action against big business interests:

Roșia Montană, Romania

For 20 years, residents of beautiful Romanian town Roşia Montană have fought plans to build a toxic gold mine, which would have destroyed their home and the environment. They stopped the project in court, where the mine was declared illegal.

But now Canadian company Gabriel Resources is suing Romania in an international tribunal, seeking US$5.7 billion in compensation – nearly 3% of Romania’s GDP. Will this force the government to its knees, meaning it will change the law and approve the mine after all?

Dubrovnik, Croatia

For 13 years, the citizens of Dubrovnik opposed the construction of a luxury resort on the hill overlooking their city. Ultimately, the project was stopped by Croatian courts. But the company behind it is now suing Croatia using corporate courts, seeking $500 million in compensation - and trying to silence the community in local courts. 

Abruzzo, Italy

After a decade-long inspiring fight, the citizens of the Italian region of Abbruzzo won an important battle against the oil industry: they stopped the Ombrina Mare oil project, which would have had a huge impact on the environment. The government agreed to pass a new law banning oil drilling near the Italian coast. But now, Big Oil is fighting back. 

Guatemala

In South America, and as reported by Unionsafety in May, opposition to a Gold Mine project in Guatemala arose from the potential impacts of the mine on water, public health, and the environment in what is a very dry region of the country. In short, the local environment and welfare of the people living in the region is under threat.

The Guatemalan Supreme Court of Justice suspended the mine in 2016 for lack of prior consultation with Indigenous communities in the municipalities of San Pedro Ayampuc and San José de Golfo, north of Guatemala City. The suspension remains in effect, pending a final decision from the Constitutional Court.

Now the Guatemalan government is being sued by The American owned company then filed a law suit in December 2018 at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) for alleged violations of the Central America–Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR).

It costs countries tens of millions of their tax payers money to defend themselves against action in the ISDS secret courts and then even more to appeal against any decision made against them.

Australia

Australia Vs Philip Morris is a perfect example of the costs that can be involved:

In 2012, Australia legislated that cigarettes must be sold in unappealing packets with graphic health warnings, which the UK also introduced in 2017 following the case and the success of Australia’s appeal.

Pic: Australian Cigarette PacketTobacco giant, Philip Morris had tried to force Australia to overturn their laws, but in 2015 a court dismissed its claim, and now the company has been ordered to pay the government's legal costs.

The exact sum was redacted from the international Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) decision, but the Sydney Morning Herald reported it was as high as A$50m (£30m; $38m).

In May 2017, Bloomberg reported that the World Trade Organization (WTO) had decided Australia's laws were a legitimate public health measure - making them more likely to be adopted overseas.

Now pressure group Global Citizen, which is part of the UK Stop ISDS coalition  is running a petition against the use of these secret courts which says that ISDS has no place in trade deals, with nearly 36,000 UK citizens having already signed the petition to the UK’s Department For International Trade.

Across the world taxpayers are forced to cough up billions of pounds, which could be used for healthcare or education, to ‘compensate’ corporations for democratic decisions that protect people and planet.

But people are fighting back, and countries like South Africa, Ecuador and Indonesia have already ripped up these toxic deals. Join the global fight back against these corporate courts.

You too can sign the Global Citizen petition against Liam Fox’s plans being conducted in secret here

Source: Sydney Morning Herald / BBC News / Global Citizen / US Dept of Commerce



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