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Imagine a scenario. A company wants to mine for gold in unspoiled rainforest. Gold mining is notoriously polluting, making extensive use, among other things, of arsenic. Open-cast mining, moreover, causes extensive deforestation. Luckily the country concerned has recently banned new open-cast mining. And the ban is hugely popular; large demonstrations have demanded the government implements it more effectively.
So when the high court rules that the company cannot mine, it does so with a democratic and popular, as well as legal, mandate. This, in any reasonable world, would be the end of the matter. But not in a world ruled by investment treaties. In this world, the mining company has cause to sue said country in an international investor dispute court. For $1 billion.
As you might have begun to suspect, this isn’t a fictional scenario. It describes the case that Calgary-based Infinito Gold is taking against Costa Rica under the terms of the Canada-Costa Rica investment treaty. These kinds of ‘bilateral’ treaties have snowballed in recent years. And the mechanisms they contain are likely to make their way into the EU-US trade agreement (or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) that is being negotiated during 2014.
We don’t know what exactly is being proposed in this treaty – the negotiations are secret. But a recent European Commission negotiating proposal leaked to Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) suggests it will go even further than expanding these kinds of egregious legal rights. It proposes a ‘regulatory co‑operation council’, which would seek to harmonise regulation between the EU and US and ensure business interests are looked after. Corporate representatives would be involved as standard.
CEO researcher Kenneth Haar writes: ‘This model puts the business groups at the table with regulators to essentially co-write legislation. Existing and future EU regulation would have to go through onerous procedures and lengthy negotiations with a strong business presence, in a way that would be likely to avoid any meaningful democratic debate. And the odds are that it will result in a major deregulation offensive.’
The British government has been an enthusiastic cheerleader of this trade deal. On this issue it is not at all at odds with the neoliberal elite that runs the EU. What better way to further open up the NHS to private profit than to rig investment rules in favour of corporate interests?
Much of the critique of the coalition’s cuts programme has focused on the people it harms and whether it will get us out of recession. But this is only part of the picture. Whatever the reality of George Osborne’s claims of economic recovery, the truth is that austerity is working, precisely because the whole point was to permanently shift wealth and power to the ruling class.
More than a decade ago, the anti‑globalisation movement focused on the issues of free trade and debt as mechanisms for the rich world to dominate the rest. Now those issues are at the centre of the attacks on our living standards in Britain and Europe.
As Nick Dearden argues, a renewed and updated anti-globalisation movement is needed. Like the last wave, it must be internationalist. But it also needs to be woven into those struggles against austerity that we have managed to wage.
This is no small task. But understanding and resisting the onward march of corporate power is central to making the world habitable for the majority.
Drawing connections between events as disparate as the ‘social murder’ of Grenfell and recent mudslides in Sierra Leone, Remi Joseph-Salisbury points to the enduring relevance of Pan African thought for anti-racist struggle today.
We work ourselves into the ground for little economic benefit. It's high time to for a change, writes Aidan Harper.
Deregulation and tax loopholes are justified by saying that they 'protect growth'. But really, they just protect the wealthy, writes James Fox
Inequality is often treated as a law of nature - but really, it's the result of conscious political choices. It's time to choose equality, writes the IPPR's Carys Roberts.
Tom Palmer, aka Agent Kingfisher, was the 'messiah' of London's squatting scene until his death last year. But who was responsible for his fate? MI5, late capitalism or simply a drug overdose? Matt Broomfield investigates.
'Docs Not Cops' write that we must resist attempts to make our NHS any less universal
Louis Mendee explains the real human costs of climate change for the global south.
From climate change to automation to demographic shifts, Mathew Lawrence explains the challenges our economy will face in the coming decade.
Fifty years after the Abortion Act, women are still dying from being denied basic services, write activists from Feminist Fightback
We need to tackle the patronising ideology that lets Tory think-tanks sneer at social tenants, writes Emma Dent Coad
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright