Tuesday

17th Oct 2017

Opinion

How trade deals threaten democracy and climate

  • TransCanada is demanding $15 billion in compensation, from taxpayers’ money (Photo: Jacob Earl)

If there was any doubt that international trade agreements threatened both democracy and the climate, then thank the TransCanada Corporation for making it abundantly clear.

Less than a week into the new year, and less than a month after the international climate talks in Paris, the Keystone XL pipeline developers are demonstrating exactly who the real beneficiaries of international trade deals are – corporations.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • US President Obama rejected the controversial Keystone XL pipeline in November. (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

The controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would have bisected the United States carrying climate-killing tar sands from Canada, was rejected by US President Obama in November.

Obama cited the pipeline's projected contribution to climate change in deeming it not in the national interest.

The pipeline would have opened up global markets to exports of tar sands – one of the world’s dirtiest fuels.

Blocking the pipeline was a major victory for the climate movement, putting the interests of people ahead of corporations.

On 6 January this year, TransCanada initiated international trade proceedings against the US government over its decision to block the pipeline.

Under the investment chapter of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), TransCanada is demanding USD$15 billion in compensation, from taxpayers’ money.

The vast majority of the claim is based on missed future profits, as the company has only invested USD$2.4 billion so far. To put this in perspective, in 2014 the US government only provided USD$430 million for climate-vulnerable countries to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS)

In effect, a decision made by a democratically elected government, in the interest of both people and the environment, is being challenged by a corporation interested only in its projected profits.

In addition, the case will be heard in a private international tribunal, composed of unelected corporate lawyers.

The case adds to the long list of past and ongoing investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS), a mechanism included in thousands of international trade agreements, and under growing criticism in the context of the negotiations for the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the Transpacific Trade Partnership (TPP), and the EU-Canada trade agreement.

Famous examples include the energy giant Vattenfall challenging Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear energy, LonePine Resources disputing Quebec’s introduction of a precautionary moratorium on the controversial technique of fracking, and Ethyl achieving the reversal of Canada’s ban on the toxic chemical MMT.

The ISDS not only allows foreign investors to sue host governments for financial compensation in private tribunals, but may create a chilling effect on legislators keen to protect the public interest, due to the threat of lawsuits and financial losses.

This latest case sends American, Canadian and EU decision-makers a clear signal: trade and investment deals, including investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms, are an enormous threat to the climate.

There can no longer be any doubt that they threaten democracy, and benefit only a handful of corporate players.

Once corporations are entitled to special privileges without obligations, they will stop at nothing to secure profits at the expense of the environment and essential public safeguards.

Therefore, it’s time to put a stop to international trade deals like TTIP, TPP and the EU-Canada trade agreement, and put the interests of people and the planet before the profits of big business.

Magda Stoczkiewicz is director of Friends of the Earth Europe

Left flirting with antisemitism in EU parliament

It is outrageous that Leila Khaled, a member of a group listed by the EU as a terrorist organisation, was given a platform in the EU parliament, a body representing democracy and peaceful cooperation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  2. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  3. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  4. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  5. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  6. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  7. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  8. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  10. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year
  11. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  12. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State

Latest News

  1. No sign of Brexit speed-up after May-Juncker dinner
  2. EU defence strategy 'outsourced' to arms industry
  3. EU privacy rules tilt to industry, NGO says
  4. Malta in shock after car bomb kills crusading journalist
  5. Spanish and Catalan leaders continue stand-off
  6. May pleads for more, as EU makes Brexit gesture
  7. EU circles the wagons around Iran deal
  8. 'Think of the patients!' cry EU agency contenders