The terrors of the ISDS provisions in TTIP


We're really all rather mystified by the furore over the investor state dispute settlement system within the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Pact. Unite has been running a campaign insisting it will put the NHS at risk: foreign companies would be able to sue, outside our court system, if their profits from killing us all in our beds were interrupted. Others have been complaining that no future government could renationalise the railways if it came into force. The ISDS has absolutely nothing at all to do with either of those two cases. Nor, if truth be known, with most of what people are claiming about it. Here actually is the current text of what the EU is suggesting to the Americans.

Neither Party shall nationalize or expropriate a covered investment either directly or indirectly through measures having an effect equivalent to nationalisation or expropriation (hereinafter referred to as 'expropriation') except: (a) for a public purpose; (b) under due process of law; (c) in a non-discriminatory manner; and (d) against payment of prompt, adequate and effective compensation.

That is, any government can nationalise anything it wants. As long as all the usual rules about compulsory purchase and so on are followed: it's done legally, for some reason, it's not being done just to shaft someone and it is paid for. All things that we'd expect to be part of normal domestic law anyway, which are in fact part of normal domestic law anyway.

Thus we find it very hard to understand the demonstrations, the protests. There's nothing else in that draft that causes us the slightest concern either. That same clause even insists that it will not cover the compulsory licence of IP (say, a drug or a vaccine that a country cannot afford, under the usual WHO and WTO influenced rules).

We're left scratching our heads and the best we can come up with is as follows. And we will admit that we're not normally this cynical. It is obviously fun to go on a demo and if you choose the fashionable cause of the day that's where all the good looking people are going to be anyway. But in the absence of anything to have a good demo about there's still the need to all get together. And of course something like Unite needs to keep demonstrating (sorry) that it really is doing something for the workers in return for all those union dues. So, in said absence, why not create something to demo about? Doesn't matter how true or not anything is, whatever gets the juices flowing and shows continued the relevance of the organisers works just beautifully.

Sorry, we just can't think of any other reason why there's been this uproar. And read the full document for yourself to see if you can find it.