Ever heard of TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership? It is a “Free Trade” deal with the United States currently under consideration by the European Union. Trade deals used to be about removing import tariffs. This one is also about the rights to invest in the provision of all manner of public services, coupled with a body to eliminate regulatory differences between the US and EU over products and services, extending to matters of environmental protection and workers rights. Such barriers, which are hard-won protections to the consumer, would progressively disappear.
The truly frightening thing is the proposal to set up an extra-governmental body to govern disputes between investors and government: the Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision. It enables investors to sue governments for unlimited amounts, with costs falling on the latter, if regulations or decisions damage or impede their profits, and effectively force a reversal of policy. This exists in other ‘free trade’ deals with the USA, and such actions are already being taken against other countries: e.g., over warnings and plain packaging of cigarettes, and the decision to close nuclear power plants, and even over minimum wage legislation. The proposed ‘court’ is not subject to any other state or EU judicial system.
Francis Fukuyama wrote a much-derided book, The End of History, that saw as its endpoint the conclusion of the Cold War and the dominance of Capitalism as the way of providing for ourselves. What is now envisaged is, if anything, more extreme: rule by transnational corporations over such legislatures that they have not already bought into.
Come and hear the grisly details, and set yourselves to protest.