SOMO, TNI, Milieudefensie and Both ENDS have launched a new public consultation platform with the purpose to engage as many people as possible to influence the new blueprint for bilateral investment treaties (BITs): www.tijdvooreerlijkehandel.nl. The long-awaited blueprint was made public two weeks ago by Minister Kaag.

Photo: Milo/SOMO

The concerns of 11,000 people ignored

Earlier this year, 11,000 Dutch citizens expressed their concerns about bilateral investment treaties (BITs) and called on Minister Kaag to emphasise the protection of human rights, labour rights and the environment in future BITs. Unfortunately, the new blueprint fails to incorporate many of these concerns, which is why we are calling on Dutch citizens to provide input at www.tijdvooreelijkehandel.nl.

ISDS alive and kicking

Bart-Jaap Verbeek, researcher at SOMO:

The new blueprint is old wine in new bottles. It still favours corporations by emphasising their rights over their responsibilities and the provisions regarding sustainability don’t carry much weight. So you could say that ISDS is alive and kicking”.

The current blueprint actually represents a step backwards when compared to CETA because CETA at least did not include the Investment Court System (which we consider a weak ISDS alternative). The new model, meanwhile, continues to provide a private court to settle conflicts between states and corporations. This “court” will consist of three private attorneys with no right to appeal decisions.

The Netherlands and ISDS: US$100 billion in claims over the past 50 years

Minister Kaag has already promised that future BITs will no longer allow “letterbox companies” to access the private investment courts. She further acknowledged that this kind of court is unnecessary in “OECD countries”.

We’re happy that Minister Kaag acknowledges some of the fundamental flaws, however, that is not reflected in the new blueprint”, notes Milieudefensie’s Freek Bersch. He believes that the new blueprint “still provides too much potential for corporate misconduct”.

Fifty years ago, the Netherlands was the first country to include an ISDS clause in its investment treaties. This has allowed investors to claim some US$100 billion in compensation from other countries for the adoption of public regulations.“If it’s up to us, the Netherlands will be the first country because it’s nothing more than a political tool for corporations to pressure countries and influence legislation”, says Bart-Jaap Verbeek.