Organizations Against ISDS

ISDS is primarily written by multinational corporations and their lobbyists and embedded like a Trojan horse into investment treaties during secret negotiation phases. Even politicians, let alone labor organizations, non-profit organizations, advocacy and civil society groups are excluded. So it is pretty safe to assume that the provisions are written for the sole benefits of multinationals.

As details of the ISDS provisions become publicly known, more and more organizations and the general public are alarmed and become opposed to it.

Here are a few snippets.

First the people

Organized by trade unions, environmental groups, NGOs and anti-globalization groups, 250,000 Germans marched against TTIP/ISDS in Berlin (link). Similar rallies also took place in other cities all across Europe.

The largest ever survey conducted by the EU revealed that the vast majority of replies, around 145,000 (or 97%) submitted by the citizens were against TTIP.  In addition, the Commission received individual replies from more than 3,000 individuals and some 450 organisations representing a wide spectrum of EU civil society, including NGOs, business organisations, trade unions, consumer groups, law firms and academics. (link)

Stop-TTIP, a European citizens’ initiative against TTIP and CETA, has collected over 3.4 million signatures as of this writing, the largest collection of signatures ever.

Small and Medium Enterprises (SME)

A growing rank of time-pressed SME owners across Europe are spending precious time to organize and speak out against the TTIP.

SME owners in Britain have formed the Business Against TTIP initiative, spearheaded by Titus Sharpe, 2015 Entrepreneur of the Year, who has this to say:

We know that TTIP means our higher European standards are under threat undermining the social, health and environmental standards that we enjoy in Europe.

And we believe that our democracy itself is under threat: through the “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) process, US companies will be given a special private justice system where they can challenge any new laws in Europe affecting their profits. (link)

The German association of medium-sized enterprises (Bundesverband mittelständische Wirtschaft), the country’s mostly family-run SME sector which represents 99% of firms in the country, is adamantly opposed to the trade deals. 94% of the owners complained about the lack of information while 50% felt their interests were being endangered, according to a recent survey. (link)

BmW , considers ISDS in TTIP “unnecessary” and “strictly rejects” it because the proposed provisions “discriminate against medium-sized businesses, undermine the rule of law and are therefore at the expense of the EU member states,” (link)

Advocacy groups and NGOs

Over 100 Canadian and EU groups strongly oppose the dangerous ‘investors’ rights’ in CETA, including among the Canadian ones the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Communications Workers of America (CWA) Canada, Council of Canadians and National Farmers Union (link)

Dozens of environmental advocacy groups, led by the Sierra Club, sent a letter to the US Congress urging it to reject ISDS and the TPP. (link)

Local municipalities

Fed up with the EU turning a deaf ear to their opposition against the ISDS provisions in TTIP and CETA, many local municipal councils have declared their city ‘free TPP/TTIP/CETA/TiSA/ISDS zones’ in a symbolic show of their frustration. The same movement is also spreading to the US.

  • Austria: 83 municipalities have resolutions (link)
  • France: hundreds of municipalities (link)
  • Spain: 64 no TTIP councils, including Barcelona (link)
  • Switzerland: Geneva, Lausanne, Zurich declare TiSA Free Zone (link)
  • UK: 32 TTIP Free Zones (link)
  • Many councils in Germany, and Belgium
  • US: New York City declares TPP Free zone (link)
  • Other US municipalities passing similar resolutions: San Fran, LA, Seattle, Pittsburgh, St. Paul… (link)


Across the political spectrum

Objections are being raised left and right, literally.

Elizabeth Warren, US Congresswoman and a leader in fighting financial crimes and monied influence in politics, says ISDS offends everyone along the entire spectrum of political ideology.

ISDS could lead to gigantic fines, but it wouldn’t employ independent judges. Instead, highly paid corporate lawyers would go back and forth between representing corporations one day and sitting in judgment the next. Maybe that makes sense in an arbitration between two corporations, but not in cases between corporations and governments. If you’re a lawyer looking to maintain or attract high-paying corporate clients, how likely are you to rule against those corporations when it’s your turn in the judge’s seat?

“Conservatives who believe in American sovereignty are outraged that ISDS shifts power from American courts as envisioned by our constitution to unaccountable international tribunals. Libertarians are offended that ISDS effectively offers a free taxpayers’ subsidy to countries with weaker legal systems. And progressives should oppose ISDS because it allows big multinationals to weaken labor and environmental rules.

Giving foreign corporations special rights to challenge our laws outside of our legal system is a bad deal.” (link)


The Cato Institute, a conservative and pro-multinational corporation think tank, raise the following red flag even as it endorses the TPP (link).

But under ISDS, U.S. investors abroad and foreign investors in the United States can collect damages from the treasuries of their host governments by virtue of the judgments of arbitration panels that are entirely outside of the legal structure of the respective countries. This all raises serious questions about democratic accountability, sovereignty, checks and balances, and the separation of power.

Alfred de Zayas, the UN’s Independent Expert on the promotion of democratic and equitable international order, made this assessment on ISDS (link):

“The ISDS cannot be reformed. It must be abolished because it undermines fundamental principles of the UN, state sovereignty, democracy and the rule of law. ”


What about corporate media?

Oh, the mainstream corporate media in general considers it a ‘necessary evil’ as part of a good trade deal or stays silent about ISDS. Realizing that 90%+ of the world’s English media is owned by six corporations, I’d refer you back to the first paragraph to draw your own conclusion.

Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)

This article is part of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) in-depth topic. Get a crash course and read the latest developments on this topic.


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