Democrats urge officials to leave out investor-state dispute provisions in major trade deals

Several House and Senate Democrats are urging the Obama administration to leave out provisions in a two major trade deals they say could lead to changes in U.S. finanical regulations. 

Five Democrats, led by Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, wrote President Obama urging him to exclude investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions from the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement.

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In a separate letter, Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenAmazon hires antitrust lobbyist Jill Stein helps Trump as Ralph Nader helped Bush Scott Brown calls ex-Fox host harassment charge ‘totally false’ MORE (D-Mass.), Tammy BaldwinTammy BaldwinCommunity development can help close the opportunity divide Overnight Healthcare: Major insurer expands ObamaCare presence | Charges dropped for Planned Parenthood videomakers FDA explores changes to blood donation for gay men MORE (D-Wis.), and Edward MarkeyEd MarkeyDem senator criticizes Facebook, Instagram for gun sales Apple, Google enlisted for FCC robocall effort Airlines brace for boost in travel volumes over Labor Day MORE (D-Mass.) raised concerns about those provisions being added to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which they argue would make it harder for Congress and regulatory agencies to prevent future financial crises.

“We share your goals of ensuring that U.S. interests that invest abroad are not treated in a discriminatory fashion or denied fair opportunity to seek and achieve redress of grievances and believe they can be attained in TTIP without the inclusion of ISDS provisions,” the House lawmakers wrote.

“Should investor-to-state provisions be included in the TTIP, we believe that reforms to the current model are critical to avoiding the problems that have arisen under the provisions in existing FTAs and BITs."

The senators said that investor-state dispute settlement provisions in past trade deals have allowed foreign firms to use the process to challenge government financial policy decisions, and that the provisions in the TPP could be even broader. 

The are specifically concerned about market access rules and capital controls.

"Including such provisions in the TPP could expose American taxpayers to billions of dollars in losses and dissuade the government from establishing or enforcing financial rules that impact foreign banks,” the senators wrote.

“The consequence would be to strip our regulators of the tools they need to prevent the next crisis."

The senators argue that Congress must be able maintain the flexibility to impose restrictions on harmful financial products and on the conduct or structure of financial firms.

The letter asks the USTR to respond with its positions on the inclusion of these three provisions in the TPP, and requests that the USTR provide the senators with all U.S. proposals and bracketed negotiating texts relating to the provisions.

Reps. Lloyd Doggett (Texas), Linda Sanchez (Calif.), John Lewis (Ga.) and Jim McDermottJim McDermott19 House Democrats' sites hacked at close of gun sit-in 'Will on the Hill' pokes fun at 2016 election Overnight Healthcare: House mental health bill finally moving forward MORE (Wash.), also Ways and Means Committee members, signed onto the letter that also went to Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryObama phones Italian leader after deadly earthquake US arms sale to Saudi Arabia under fire from lawmakers Top Republican presses Kerry for Iran 'ransom' details MORE and U.S. Trade Representative Michael FromanMichael FromanLiberals rally to sink Obama trade deal House lawmakers urge Obama to forgo lame-duck TPP vote President Obama optimistic Congress will pass TPP this year MORE.  

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka backed the lawmakers’ objections.

“The TTIP can help our economy grow, but only if it excludes the ISDS,” Trumka said.

“ISDS gives foreign investors extraordinary legal rights to challenge generally applicable public policies, including decisions about where to place toxic waste dumps, whether to increase minimum wages, and how to protect children from smoking and water pollution in privatized ‘corporate courts’."