The ongoing trade agreement between the EU and the US, threatens to undermine our democracy, public health, consumer rights and the environment.
These trade negotiations have been shrouded in secrecy, and are still happening behind closed doors. Growing public concern has been centred on a controversial mechanism known as Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) which gives foreign companies privileged rights to circumvent national court systems and sue governments in secret arbitration courts.
Tobacco Corporations threaten to sue Irish Government
Legislation allowing for the introduction of plain packaged tobacco has just been passed into law this week.
Three BIG tobacco companies Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco, and Japan Tobacco International Limited have each sent legal letters to the Irish government challenging the government on plans to introduce the proposed tobacco plain packaging. JTI Ireland (Japan Tobacco International, Ireland) – who own Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut – have threatened the Irish government with legal action if they continue with the tobacco plain packaging legislation.
Minister Reilly told Newstalk on 11.03.15:
“They would seek to intimidate us, with the billions they have in turnover”.
One of the giant tobacco companies – Philip Morris – who is sending threatening letters to the Irish government, is currently using ISDS to sue the Australian government for the introduction of plain packaging legislation on tobacco. (See the case example below)
Minister Reilly’s stance has been laudable in standing up to these BIG tobacco corporations. The introduction of this legislation is a public health measure aimed at combating a serious public health risk.
But, at the same time, our government is actively supporting the explicit inclusion of ISDS in trade agreements such as the EU-US (TTIP) or the EU-Canada (CETA). Minister Richard Bruton went as far as to sign this letter to the Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom calling for the inclusion of ISDS in TTIP.
Tobacco companies are already suing the Irish government. Examples like this could become more common as ISDS will enable foreign corporations from around the world to sue national governments over changes to law and legislation introduced in the interests of people and the environment.
Take a look at what John Oliver had to say about Ireland’s plain packaging laws on his late night talk show here.