Friday, December 05, 2014

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Manuel Perez-Rocha writes about the corrosive effect of allowing businesses to dictate public policy through trade agreements:
(C)orporations are increasingly using investment and trade agreements — specifically, the investor-state dispute settlement provisions in them — to bring opportunistic cases in arbitral courts, circumventing decisions states deem in their best interest. And now investor-state dispute settlement provisions may be enshrined in two new treaties: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and Trans-Pacific Partnership, currently under negotiation between, respectively, the United States and the European Union, and the United States and 11 Asia-Pacific nations. If the final agreements contain these mechanisms, we can expect a flood of cases like Pacific Rim v. El Salvador.

Investor-state dispute settlement provisions feature in many significant pacts, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, and nine U.S.-E.U. bilateral investment treaties. Foreign investors can sue over alleged violations of myriad “investor protections,” including public-interest regulations that would reduce their profits. But it doesn’t cut both ways: Governments or communities affected by foreign investors cannot bring claims. Equally troublesome, tribunal operations are often opaque.
The investor-state dispute settlement mechanism is like playing soccer on half the field. Corporations are free to sue, and nations must defend themselves at enormous cost — and the best a government can hope for is a scoreless game. As the T.T.I.P. and T.P.P. negotiations continue, Pacific Rim vs. El Salvador should remind us not to privilege foreign investors to the detriment of the national — or global — good.
- And that corporate privilege stands in particularly stark contrast to the limited rights of citizens - as evidenced by the Ontario Court of Appeal's recent decision that individuals can't even make out an arguable case for a Charter right to housing.

- Joseph Heath examines the reality that dirty and hard-to-extract oil reserves should be seen as stranded assets for the sake of our planet, rather than relied on as a source of future wealth.

- Keith Neuman and Ian Bruce comment on the growing consensus that we need to take strong action to fight climate change. Martin Lukacs suggests that public ownership within the energy industry would go a long way toward getting greenhouse gas emissions in check. And the Fraser Institute helpfully points out that the alternative to mitigating climate change is to abandon cities built in locations which will suffer its most extreme effects.

- Finally, Thomas Walkom discusses the Cons' habit of cultivating foreign enemies in order to paper over their lack of interest in governing in the interest of Canadians.

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