The Ecuadorian Citizens’ Commission for a Comprehensive Audit of Investment Protection Treaties and of the International Arbitration System on Investments (CAITISA) was set up by the Ecuadorian goverment to audit the country's investment treaties and make recommendations to the government.
The commission was comprised of government officials, academics, lawyers and civil society groups, including the foremost expert on investment law, Muthucumaraswamy Sornarajah and the former Attorney General for Argentina, Osvaldo Guglielmino. Our own TNI researcher Cecilia Olivet was nominated president.
In May 2017, the Commission's report was published and its recommendations to terminate the country's Bilateral Investment Treaties accepted by the government.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a proposed free trade agreement, in negotiation, between the United States and the European Union. Its proponents claim that the agreement will benefit consumers with lower prices, increased competition and more jobs.
However, very little of the TTIP deals with trade; the vast majority of the agreement relates to government regulations and will therefore have huge implications in matters such as food sovereignty, digital rights and the environment. It will limit the capacity of governments and local groups to regulate and increase the capacity of transnational corporations to act with impunity. TNI’s focus for TTIP and other free trade agreements is on the investment chapter, and particularly the problems caused by Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms that allow corporations to sue governments for actions that affect their profits.
Investment protection mechanisms give corporations the right to sue states if they take any measures – including public interest legislation – that might threaten profits. Wellknown versions of this is the Investor state-dispute mechanism (ISDS) which after rising controversy and critisism has been replaced by the Investment court system (ICS). Investment protection mechanisms are included in most new FTAs. Nevertheless, several governments are starting to reconsider their commitments to it as they recognize the danger that it poses to their sovereignty. TNI has produced extensive research highlighting how investment protection gives corporations far-reaching rights that curtail governments’ sovereignty and drain limited public budgets. It has also revealed the big stakes the legal industry has in these mechanisms.
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a proposed free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union. The negotiations for CETA concluded on August 1, 2014, but its completion and ratification is expected to take at least two years, due to the number of parties involved. Many sections of the agreement have been severely criticised, in particular its Investor-State Dispute Settlement processes (ISDS) and its likely negative implications for the environment.
Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) are intended to regulate the commercial investment relationships between two countries. These are supposed to facilitate trade and investment by providing security for investments. However, it is common practice for BITS to establish ISDS mechanisms that allow for transnational companies to sue the states in which they operate based on a very broad interpretation of damage to investments. This has led to a surge in litigations against states and prompted a growing number of governments to seek to cancel or amend existing BITs.
TNI has long been an advocate for trade and investment policies that prioritise people and the environment over corporate interests. In the case of Colombia, TNI has worked closely with local activists and researchers in analysing and proposing alternatives to free trade agreements that are implemented at the expense of basic human and environmental needs, mainly in relation to the FTA EU-Colombia. In doing so, TNI works on different sectors and communities that are affected by bilateral and multilateral agreements.