26 January 2004

Push to keep trade litigation floodgate closed

A briefing paper from rights groups Liberty Victoria and the Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace has claimed that NAFTA's investor-state clauses have interfered with legislative, executive and judicial systems in the treaty's partner countries and have allowed companies to challenge measures aimed at protecting health, safety and the environment.

It says that, while many of the cases will fail, these huge damages claims made by private investors have affected the willingness of governments to legislate in the public interest.

Companies have sought to sue governments after they had been prevented from selling fuel with additives deemed harmful to people's health, while a California water utility has claimed $US10.5 billion for lost profit from Canada after a provincial government banned the export of bulk water from its rivers and lakes.

May I make a small suggestion to the negotiators struggling to find a dispute settlement system? there are these things called courts of law. They make decisions in public. They do not always privilege investors over public policy. They have established rules and procedures. I know it's radical, but it's a thought.

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