A Long Read – for that ‘free ride’ to ‘free trade’ and ICSID

The Guardian has another of its Long Reads.

This time the topic is the rise of the corporation, usually multinational corporation (MNC), to the level of, equivalent to the state and beyond. Countries that have had to face the World Bank to seek loans and technical assistance, and be subject to that well-known ‘structural adjustment’, are more than familiar with the mechanism called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). In the case of the World Bank, the name is the more sophisticated-sounding, International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) – and not even deigning to use US-spelling of ‘Centre’.

Unsuspecting (and trusting) borrowing member countries would learn that justice, fair outcomes, in disputes would amount to a pipe dream, and, to their dismay, they had been smoking that pipe. To make matters worse, the adjudicators, the judges are usually cut from a different cloth. Only as ‘the shoe is to be on the other foot’ so to speak, the US populace is likely suffer at worst the costs imposed on developing countries involved in ISDS, did some of its concerned, responsible legislators and analysts begin to sound the alarm, even vocally so.

The naked capitalism blog of Yves Smith has been persistent in highlighting the perils, as indicated by this post, Sovereignty For International Investors (Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)).  And if further sampling is needed, From Public Citizen: Top 10 Most Pernicious Investor-State Dispute Settlement Lawsuits. From as far back as 13Nov13, we had, House Pushing Back on Trade Deal; More Detail on How Secret Arbitration Panels Undermine Laws and Regulations. Of special interest in that last post are two charts that show the control some 15 arbitrators have had over some 55 percent of the ISDS cases – ‘nice work if you can get it’?

To make a long story short, and before we travel to the Long Read, those sample posts serve as rich background. And the Long Read, The obscure legal system that lets corporations sue countries, should prove to be an illuminating and rewarding read, even a useful reference. One thing it does not and cannot answer is something quintessentially of the US system of governance and its psyche, as reported at common dreams,

In the face of stubborn resistance from Democratic lawmakers, the Obama administration has “moved beyond trying to sell Fast Track on its merits,” Public Citizen says, “and is now offering rides on Air Force One, promises of infrastructure legislation, and pledges to help representatives survive the political backlash of a ‘yes’ vote on Fast Track.”

[bold added for emphasis]

So, to have ‘fast track’ passed, the US President, in exchange, ‘is now offering rides on Air Force One’ to wavering but responsible legislators? For deals that will have lasting, even pernicious, impact on the lives of millions and their environment, and where corporations will reap billions, and the campaigners for passage, subsequently, millions? The most recent WikiLeaks leak of a chapter and Healthcare Annex of the TPP offers involved parties that golden opportunity to reveal their preference: their citizens or the corporations?

An already deteriorating quality of life may soon lead many citizens of the ‘advanced west’ to experience a way of life against which so many others from so many other counties have been complaining – the MNC rampant in countries with despoiled environment and worsened quality of, and even abbreviated, life.


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