URGENT: Sign this letter to oppose new rules that unfairly protect corporations.

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IBFAN and many other organisations are becoming increasingly worried about the many trade deals now being struck - more often than not in the shadows -  that seem to protect the interests of corporations at the expense of the poor. 

Below is a letter that you can sign onto - as a quick way to register your concern.

Watch this  recording of a Bill Moyers programme

CLICK HERE  http://billmoyers.com/episode/full-show-the-top-secret-trade-deal-you-need-to-know-about/

If you page down even further you will find two other articles about food security and what is going on at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting in Bali this week.   We are very aware of the importance of these issues through our work at Codex. The  global  food standards set there  are used by WTO in trade disputes.

In the first article  the  United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to foodOlivier De Schutter, states: 

“Trade rules must be shaped around the food security policies that developing countries need, rather than policies having to tiptoe around WTO rules,” the expert said. “Supporting local food production is the first building block on the road to realizing the right to food, and trade must complement local production, not justify its abandonment.” 


1 First, here is the letter for sign on. Its being circulated by  the Health & Environment Alliance (HEAL) and is about the Investor-State Dispute Settlement in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership currently being negotiated.

 The DEADLINE  is Dec 6th   CLICK HERE for a quick easy way to sign on


Dear Colleagues:

Please find attached and below a civil society sign-on letter opposing investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in TTIP.  If your organization would like to sign the letter, please fill out this form by clicking here.   The deadline for signatures is close of business on Friday, December 6th.  We are planning to release the statement at the start of the next round of TTIP negotiations, which start December 16th.

ISDS grants foreign corporations the right to go before private trade tribunals and directly challenge government policies and actions that corporations allege reduce the value of their investments.  As the letter states, ISDS forces governments to use taxpayer funds to compensate corporations for public policies; undermines democratic decision making; and is completely unnecessary in an agreement between the U.S. and the EU.

Please also circulate this letter to any other organizations that may be interested.  We’re hoping to have on a broad range of groups from both the U.S. and the EU.

Let me know if you have any questions, and fill out this form by close of business on the 6th to sign on!

Best,  Ilana


Ilana Solomon, Director, Responsible Trade Program, Sierra Club


Tel, Direct Line:  (202) 650-6063

Fax: (202) 547-6009

Address:  50 F street NW, 8th Floor

Washington, DC 20001 



Dear Ambassador Froman and Commissioner De Gucht:

The undersigned organizations are writing to express our opposition to the inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

ISDS grants foreign corporations the right to go before private trade tribunals and directly challenge government policies and actions that corporations allege reduce the value of their investments. Even if a new policy applies equally to domestic and foreign investors, ISDS allows foreign corporations to demand compensation for the absence of a ‘predictable regulatory environment.’

In recent years, the use of ISDS to challenge a diverse array of government policies has expanded dramatically. Inclusion of ISDS in free trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties has allowed corporations to file over 500 cases against 95 governments.  Many of these cases directly attack public interest and environmental policies. For the following reasons, we strongly urge you to exclude ISDS from TTIP:

ISDS forces governments to use taxpayer funds to compensate corporations for public health, environmental, labor and other public interest policies and government actions:  ISDS has been used to attack clean energy, mining, land use, health, labor, and other public interest policies. In fact, of the more than $14 billion in the 16 claims now pending under just U.S. free trade agreements, all relate to environmental, energy, financial regulation, public health, land use and transportation policies – not traditional trade issues. 

Increasingly, corporations are using ISDS to challenge non-discriminatory government measures.  For example, EU investors have attacked Egypt’s minimum-wage increase, and a U.S. corporation has attacked the Peruvian government’s decision to regulate toxic waste and close a dangerously polluting smelter under deals with ISDS. In one of the most notorious cases, U.S. tobacco giant Philip Morris launched investor-state cases challenging anti-smoking laws in Uruguay and Australia after failing to undermine the health laws in domestic courts. Particularly because of the significant number of cross-registered companies in the United States and the EU, the number of ISDS attacks on public interest policies would likely increase dramatically if TTIP includes ISDS.  Governments must have the flexibility to put in place public interest policies without fear of trade litigation launched by corporations.

ISDS undermines democratic decision-making: ISDS grants foreign corporations the right to directly challenge government policies and actions in private tribunals, bypassing domestic courts and creating a new legal system that is exclusively available to foreign investors and multinational corporations.  ISDS also offers corporations a venue through which to challenge domestic court decisions, further undermining domestic decision-making.  In short, ISDS is a one-way street by which corporations can challenge government policies, but neither governments nor individuals are granted any comparable rights to hold corporations accountable. 

European and U.S. legal systems are capable of handling investment disputes:  The United States and the EU have among the world’s strongest domestic court systems and property rights protections. Inclusion of ISDS in TTIP would only provide corporations a new means to attack domestic policies deemed permissible by domestic courts.  A state-to-state dispute settlement system is more than sufficient to handle investment disputes in TTIP.

These and other concerns underscore why our organizations are opposed to including investor-state in TTIP.  We call on you to exclude investor-state dispute settlement from the agreement.



2 Here is the article:

“Bali package must allow ambitious food security policies” – UN expert on WTO Summit 

GENEVA (2 December 2013) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, today called for developing countries to be granted the freedom to use food reserves to help secure the right to food, without the threat of sanctions under current World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. 

Mr. De Schutter’s call comes on the eve of a high-level WTO summit in Bali, Indonesia, (3-6 December) which will try to reach agreement on proposals on developing countries’ food stockholding for food security, as part of the Doha Round trade negotiations. 

“Trade rules must be shaped around the food security policies that developing countries need, rather than policies having to tiptoe around WTO rules,” the expert said. “Supporting local food production is the first building block on the road to realizing the right to food, and trade must complement local production, not justify its abandonment.” 

The expert warned that food security is at high risk when countries become overly dependent on global markets, as shown during the global food crisis of 2007-08. “They must develop ambitious and innovative food security policies that support their own production base, building on successful experiences in a growing number of countries,” he said. 

“Food reserves are a crucial tool, not just in humanitarian crises, but in the everyday struggle to provide stable income to farmers and to ensure a steady flow of affordable foodstuffs for poor consumers, many of whom lack a basic social safety net,” Mr. De Schutter said. 

The ‘Comprehensive Framework for Action’ of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, which includes the WTO secretariat, called on States to use strategic grain reserves to stabilize prices and to immediately review trade policy options and their impacts on poor consumers and farmers. 

“The Bali package should now enshrine the rights of developing countries to use public food reserves for food security without facing sanctions,” he underlined. 

India’s 2013 Food Security Bill mandates public procurement of foodstuffs in order to distribute subsidized grains to much of the population, combined with a minimum support price to ensure adequate incomes for farmers. This has raised concerns that India could breach the tight limits on ‘trade-distorting support’ applied to developing countries under current WTO rules.

The G33 group of developing countries has proposed exempting public stockholding aimed at supporting low-income or resource-poor producers from being considered as a trade-distorting subsidy, as part of an ‘early harvest’ of Doha Round outcomes. A ‘peace clause’ has meanwhile emerged as a means of exempting such schemes from WTO challenges for a given period. 

“The risks of trade distortions must not be exaggerated,” Mr. De Schutter said, insisting that any agreement in Bali must give developing countries sufficient guarantees to be able to push ahead with ambitious food security policies. He noted that the Indian Food Security Bill is aimed at buying in stocks for domestic distribution rather than export onto world markets. 

For the Special Rapporteur, the solution is not to block any such policies, even though close monitoring is required to ensure that stockholding in one country does not result in dumping on other developing world markets.

“It should not be forgotten that developed countries are able to subsidize their farmers to the tune of more than US$ 400 billion per year, without breaching WTO rules,” he said. “Support must also be allowed to reach smallholders in developing countries.” 

Recalling the conclusions of his 2011 report* on the WTO and food security, which highlighted the potential tension between stockholding for food security purposes and WTO disciplines, the UN expert outlined a series of additional flexibilities that developing countries need in order to reconcile food security and free trade. 

“Temporary import restrictions, active marketing boards, and safety net insurance schemes must all be part of the toolbox,” he said. “Even if certain policies are not disallowed, they are certainly discouraged by the complexity of the current rules and the threat of legal action.” 

“In Bali and beyond, we must work to enshrine these flexibilities, and must continue to ask what kind of trade rules will allow us to combat food insecurity and realize the human right to food,” the Special Rapporteur highlighted. 

(*) Read the Special Rapporteur’ report: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Food/Pages/Annual.aspx 


Olivier De Schutter was appointed the Special Rapporteur on the right to food in May 2008 by the UN Human Rights Council. He is independent from any government or organization. Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Food/Pages/FoodIndex.aspx or www.srfood.org 

Check the Briefing Note by the Special Rapporteur: The World Trade Organization and the Post-Global Food Crisis Agenda: Putting Food Security First in the International Trade System: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Food/BN4_SRRTF_WTO_EN.pdf 

For more information and media requests, please contact: 

Olivier De Schutter (+32 488 482 004 / srfood@ohchr.org / olivier.deschutter@uclouvain.be) 

Ulrik Halsteen (+41 22 917 9323 / srfood@ohchr.org ) 

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts: 

Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)   

UN Human Rights, follow us on social media: 

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3 US opposition to ambitious Indian program a 'direct attack on the right to food'

Timothy Wise  Global Post, 3 December 2013


Opinion: The Obama administration's objection to India's newly approved Food Security Act is an act of hypocrisy.

BALI, Indonesia — In the lead-up to this week’s World Trade Organization negotiations, the Obama administration has tried to block the implementation of a new program approved by the Indian government that could help feed its 830 million hungry people in a cost-effective way.

The Obama administration’s objection to the program is a direct attack on the right to food, and it threatens to kill the chances for any agreement at the WTO.

The Indian government’s newly approved Food Security Act is one of the world’s most ambitious efforts to reduce chronic hunger. Under the new program, the Indian government will buy staple foods from small farmers at administered prices, generally above market levels, thereby supporting the incomes of some of the country’s most impoverished people. From those stocks, the government will provide food to the poor, generally at below-market prices, and to public initiatives such as school-based lunch programs.

This is a cost-effective way to address chronic hunger, particularly in rural areas. It does not come cheap; the annual cost is estimated at $20 billion. But neither does the United States’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), costing about $78 billion last year to assist a much smaller number of people. And in its budget negotiations and farm-bill proposals, the Obama Administration has made a point of defending funding for SNAP.

So what’s the problem with India’s plan?

The Obama administration’s objection is that such a program violates the trade rules agreed to when the WTO was set up in 1994. And it does, because those arcane and biased rules treat government-supported prices to farmers as a form of “trade-distorting support,” even if that support is for food security and supports only domestic production for the domestic market.

That is why India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and other countries that make up the G-33 group have been proposing since 2006 that the rules be updated to allow developing country governments to buy farmers’ crops at supported prices if the programs address food security. Such programs, these countries argue, should not be treated as “trade distorting.”

That proposal had largely been accepted when these WTO negotiations — called the Doha Development Round — stalled in 2008, also over US objections to food security proposals.

In preparation for the Bali ministerial, which runs Dec. 3-6, President Obama’s trade negotiators have taken a hard line on the G-33 proposal. The US, Mexico and Pakistan have withdrawn support for the food security proposal, instead offering a four-year “peace clause,” which states that no WTO member can sue any other member for such violations. After four years, all bets are off, unless there is an agreement to extend it or members reach a more comprehensive resolution of Doha issues.

India and the G-33 have rejected the proposal. In a letter to the Indian prime minister, Indian farmers argued that their country should not be expected “to mortgage its right to food and the right to livelihoods of the poor and the needy enshrined in the Constitution.” 

As UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier De Schutter has pointed out, the WTO largely marginalizes the issue, treating “food security as a deviation from the primary objective of agricultural trade liberalization.” And in a statement released Monday, De Schutter said that developing countries must be allowed to use their reserves to improve food security without facing sanctions. “Trade rules must be shaped around the food security policies that developing countries need, rather than policies having to tiptoe around WTO rules,” he said.

The WTO’s new director general, Roberto Azevedo of Brazil, has tried to breathe new life into the comatose Doha Round by urging an “early harvest” of a limited set of measures, largely agreed upon previously, that make good on the development promise of the round. Disagreements forced Azevedo to suspend negotiations last week, saying that he did not see the political will to conclude an agreement.

Bali will be the battleground where the US government seems determined to display its cynical use of trade policies to undermine the ideals it claims to support at home, like food security.

What is really on display, though, is US hypocrisy. India’s Food Security Act uses the same measures that were part of US agricultural policy for years coming out of the Great Depression.

They worked for us, but India is not allowed to use them.

More galling, US domestic agricultural support was estimated to be $130 billion in 2010. Much of that support goes to crops like corn and soybeans that we not only export directly, we feed to livestock, making our meat exports cheaper. Talk about trade distortions.

Worse still, a longstanding US and EU commitment of the Doha Round to quickly reduce or eliminate export subsidies and credits — the most directly trade-distorting government support of all — remains vague, with no firm timetables.

Meanwhile, the US and EU had their own peace clause, written into the 1994 Agreement on Agriculture to protect them from suits over excessive subsidies. No four-year limit there, while a raft of trade-distorting support resulted in the widespread dumping of surplus goods by the US and EU on developing countries, undermining their producers.

We don’t need a peace clause, we need a hypocrisy clause. We need a commitment to reduce trade-distorting hypocrisy, with the deepest cuts coming from the most developed hypocrites.

Timothy A. Wise is the policy research director at Tufts University’s Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE). He is currently on an Open Society Institute Fellowship on agriculture, climate change, and the right to food.