Investment Rules in Trade Agreements

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) offers an opportunity to develop a new model that balances the interests of private foreign investors with those of labor, environment, and the general public interest. President Obama and countless members of Congress have campaigned on just such a pledge.

The U.S. government has signed “free trade agreements” (FTAs) or bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with 52 nations that provide sweeping powers to private foreign investors and corporations, but impose no new social or environmental obligations. As a result, these rules facilitate off-shoring of U.S. jobs and undermine sustainable development strategies. They are also anti-democratic. Private foreign investors are allowed to bypass domestic courts and sue governments in international tribunals, demanding compensation for laws and regulations that reduce the value of their investments.

This document identifies the top changes to these investment rules that should be made to the TPP and that would do the most to reduce the threat to the general public and environment. The list begins with the most controversial and problematic element – investor-state dispute settlement. Changes to this mechanism are critical if we are to strike the right balance between public versus private for-profit interests. However, even if this mechanism is left intact, other reforms could go a long way towards reining in the excessive powers granted to private investors.

This report was published by Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth, the Institute for Policy Studies, Public Citizen, and the Sierra Club.