After eight years dogged work towards this objective, the principle we have sought to establish is gaining ever wider recognition. Advocacy efforts have prompted a reform process which began in 2019 under the rubric of the United Nations Center on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), as well as a process to ‘modernise’ the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) under which a spate of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) cases are being brought as governments attempt to effect commitments to climate change mitigation.
TNI’s Trade & Investment programme critically follows trade and investment policies. In line with our mission, TNI provides well-researched analysis for social movements on social and ecological impacts, supporting public education, and the development of popular advocacy campaigns. These are geared towards alternative paradigms that prioritise the environment and people’s rights over corporate profits. We worked with hundreds of allies all over the world, helping to build a powerful movement working from local to international levels. We also developed a new network of academic lawyers willing to support efforts in Latin America. A key development in 2019 was the joining of forces in 2019 of trade campaigners and the international networks campaigning to stop corporate impunity. This saw co-ordinated action across Europe and Latin America. The Asia-Europe People’s Forum continued to provide a basis for ongoing coordination in that region. Cooperation with the 30-million-members-strong Public Services International saw concerted efforts to raise awareness of the perils of ISDS for public coffers among public sector workers in Africa.
The major focus of TNI’s work in 2019 continued to be investor protection clauses in Free Trade and Investment Agreements. The spotlight was kept on the ECT, which had been looking to expand its membership. It has proved a major and increasing source of ISDS cases obstructing efforts at energy transitions, and has put ISDS squarely on the agenda of climate activists. TNI and its partners also continued to monitor EU agreements with Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico, Mercosur and Canada, as well as the Trans Pacific Partnership II, the Asian Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations, and developments in respect of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) investments and new instruments being developed for investor protections.
TNI (co) published a number of new papers, accompanied by videos and (social) media outreach; helped to conduct activist workshops on the various continents; responded to media requests for more information; and provided expert advice to government officials and political representatives.
The key results to which TNI contributed significantly in 2019 include:
- 106 states and 70 observer organisations participated in the first UNCITRAL meeting held in New York in April to discuss reform of ISDS.
- 847.000 people in Europe sign a petition to scrap ISDS and support a Treaty to stop corporate impunity, presented to the EU Commission representative to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in October.
- The Dutch Labour Party withdrew its support for the EU-Canada agreement (CETA), increasing the chances of a veto by the Netherlands.
- 100 candidate Members of the European Parliament pledged to oppose ISDS.
- The ECT secretariat launched a process of ‘modernization’ prompted by advocacy on ISDS, and suspended expansion of membership.
- Luxemburg’s Energy Minister publicly denounced the ECT threatening to withdraw if reform negotiations are unsuccessful.
- A major public debate has been catalysed in Spain, following a number of ISDS cases brought under the ECT, with TNI as a major go-to point for journalists.
- Parties to the Asian Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership dropped ISDS from its negotiations, with Malaysia and South Korea taking outspoken positions against ISDS following advocacy by TNI partners in those countries.
- Following strong advocacy by partners, the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Argentine Senate discussed a proposed law requiring the Executive to inform the Congress of impact assessments of Free Trade Agreements before these may be signed by the government.