A United Nations official has called for a moratorium on secret negotiations over a United States-European Union “free trade” deal, citing concerns that the corporate tribunals likely to be included in the final pact would boost the power of multinationals at the expense of democracy and human rights.
Alfred de Zayas, the UN’s independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, made the statements in an interview with The Guardian published Monday. He took aim at the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement, which would be the largest “free trade” deal in world history, as the U.S. and E.U. together account for nearly half of global GDP.
“We don’t want a dystopian future in which corporations and not democratically elected governments call the shots,” said de Zayas, a U.S.-based lawyer and historian born in Cuba. “We don’t want an international order akin to post-democracy or post-law.”
De Zayas expressed particular concerns about the proposed “investor-state dispute settlement” system (ISDS), which would provide a framework for corporations to sue governments over alleged lost profits and overrule national laws, courts, and democratic processes. Such corporate tribunals have become hallmarks of so-called “free trade” agreements, included in 3,000 such deals world-wide, such as the infamous North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“Most worrisome are the ISDS arbitrations, which constitute an attempt to escape the jurisdiction of national courts and bypass the obligation of all states to ensure that all legal cases are tried before independent tribunals that are public, transparent, accountable and appealable,” said de Zayas.