Ask Your State Legislators to Stand Up to Global Corporations, Speak Out Against ISDS in NAFTA

Attention West Virginians! A sign-on letter is currently circulating nationwide among state legislators, urging them to reaffirm the National Conference of State Legislatures’ position in opposition to Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).

Hundreds of state legislators have already signed on, but as of this morning, none from West Virginia have signed on.

Thanks to the good folks at Citizens Trade Campaign, here’s an easy online form to use so you can urge West Virginia legislators to support eliminating ISDS from NAFTA. 

You may have heard of ISDS before. As OVEC member Mary Wildfire noted in an op-ed, ISDS panels “allow corporations to sue any government that passes any rule they don’t like, anything they think could hurt profits—in cozy little private courts where three corporate lawyers are the judges and there is no appeal.”

The United States, Mexico and Canada are currently renegotiating NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). One of the proposals by U.S. negotiators is to remove Investor-ISDS. We are hoping our state legislators will support that position.

Citizens Trade Campaign notes: 

The current ISDS system enables transnational corporations to challenge state laws, local land use ordinances and even court decisions before arbitration panels of three corporate lawyers. These ISDS panels can award unlimited sums of taxpayer money, including for the loss of future profits. The corporations need only convince panelists that a state law, local ordinance or court ruling violates the expansive rights granted to them under NAFTA. Their decisions are not subject to appeal.

There is currently a major push from global corporations trying to save the ISDS system. 

We can’t have that, and our state legislators have an important voice in this matter. Please urge them to sign on to letter that reaffirms the National Conference of State Legislatures’ position in opposition to ISDS. If you haven’t already done so, click here to contact your state legislators on this matter.

Here’s what the legislators’ sign-on letter says: 

Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:

As state legislators, we write to strongly support your efforts to remove investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Eliminating ISDS from NAFTA is consistent with the long-standing bipartisan position of the majority-Republican National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), which clearly opposes inclusion of ISDS in any trade agreement.

We draw your attention to the specific language of the long-standing NCSL Policy Directive from the Standing Committee on Labor and Economic Development:

“NCSL will not support Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) or Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with investment chapters that provide greater substantive or procedural rights to foreign companies than U.S. companies enjoy under the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, NCSL will not support any BIT or FTA that provides for investor/state dispute resolution. NCSL firmly believes that when a state adopts a non-discriminatory law or regulation intended to serve a public purpose, it shall not constitute a violation of an investment agreement or treaty, even if the change in the legal environment thwarts the foreign investors’ previous expectations.

NCSL believes that BIT and FTA implementing legislation must include provisions that deny any private action in U.S. courts or before international dispute resolution panels to enforce international trade or investment agreements. Implementing legislation must also include provisions stating that neither the decisions of international dispute resolution panels nor international trade and investment agreements themselves are binding on the states as a matter of U.S. law.”

Thus, as you seek to conclude NAFTA renegotiations, we urge you to ensure that ISDS is removed to protect the sovereignty of states.

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1 Comment

  1. Here is an interesting analysis of these “free trade” pacts, not about ISDS in particular…

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