Free Trade and Investment Agreements Under Fire by Civil Society

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Alberto Villareal from Friends of the Earth Uruguay / REDES : email comerc@redes.org.uy or call +598 98 556360 (Uruguay phone number)

Bill Waren from Friends of the Earth US : email wwaren@foe.org or call +1 202.222.0746 (U.S. phone number)

Free Trade and Investment Agreements Under Fire by Civil Society

WASHINGTON - Immediately following the latest round of Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations in Lima, Peru [1] Friends of the Earth International announced its support for a statement signed by 130 civil society organisations criticizing the International Investment Agreements.

The statement [2] calls for an alternative legal framework for international economic relations. Its signatories welcomed the radical steps announced by Latin American and Caribbean governments in a Ministerial Declaration which had been issued at the first Ministerial Conference of Latin American States affected by transnational interests, held in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on 22 April. [3]

International Investment Agreements (IIAs) – such as the Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) and investment chapters in the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) as well as Association Agreements – undermine peoples’ rights as well as the sovereignty and constitutions of nations, democracy and the public interest, according to the signatories.

Alberto Villarreal from Friends of the Earth Uruguay / REDES said: “International Investment Agreements grant unprecedented rights to foreign corporations and investors, including the right to sue sovereign States and challenge their public interest policies in international arbitration tribunals that only look after the interests of the investors. They are deadly weapons against democratic rule and the protection of peoples' rights and environmental justice. Any steps taken by governments to put peoples' rights before the rights of investors and transnational corporations need to be supported.“

Bill Waren from Friends of the Earth US said: “Agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership are trojan horses reinforcing the power of transnational corporations and weakening government efforts to protect their citizens and the environment. There is an urgent need for an alternative to the model of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Any country can be sued by a Transnational Corporation if it takes part in an IIA. For this reason the countries signing IIAs lose the freedom to implement laws and policies that favour people and the environment, if these laws or policies go against the interests of corporations.

Signatories propose advancing an alternative legal framework for international economic relations that is based on democratic principles, and prioritises human rights over corporate interests.

Signatories thus recommend that States annul, denounce and stop signing IIAs that have unlawfully subjected them to foreign jurisdictions and violate peoples' rights, and welcome the creation of an International Observatory on investment disputes, agreed by governments at the Guayaquil Ministerial Conference.

Civil society organisations have called on those governments to take swift and concrete steps towards the creation of mechanisms for ongoing dialogue with social movements and organisations in their discussions on investment rules and disputes, as they pledged to do in their Ministerial Declaration, and offered their support to contribute to the task at hand.

NOTES

[1] The negotiations ended on May 24 after ten days of closed meetings.
A video explaining the problems of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is online at http://www.foei.org/en/what-we-do/economic-justice/peril-in-the-pacific

The 11 member states of the Trans-Pacific Partnership announced their intention to finalize their trade negotiations by the end of 2013. The member states of the Trans-Pacific Partnership so far are: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, United States of America, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam and Peru. Other countries are being encouraged to join the agreement but without reopening decisions made at previous rounds of negotiations.

[2] The civil society statement is online at: http://bit.ly/YwwVMQ
The final list of signatories is online at: http://bit.ly/12jCL3x

[3] The Latin American countries committed to the Guayaquil Declaration are Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, St. Vincent and Grenadine and Venezuela.

Their Ministerial Declaration is online in Spanish at: http://cancilleria.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/22abr_declaracion_transnacionales_eng.pdf

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Friends of the Earth is the U.S. voice of the world's largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 77 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has fought to create a more healthy, just world.

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