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 WarrenWasserman Schultz: 'Sometimes you just have to take one for the team' Chelsea Clinton's big moment Kaine as Clinton's VP pick sells out progressive wing of party MORE (D-Mass.), Tammy BaldwinTammy BaldwinOvernight Healthcare: Major insurer expands ObamaCare presence | Charges dropped for Planned Parenthood videomakers FDA explores changes to blood donation for gay men Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense MORE (D-Wis.), and Edward MarkeyEd MarkeyTim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense FCC chief pushes phone companies to offer free robocall blocking Markey floats bill bringing internet to developing world 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 KerryA new president, a new North Korea strategy Trump hopes Russia is listening; America, are you listening? Clinton at risk of being upstaged MORE and U.S. Trade Representative Michael FromanMichael FromanFroman: Too early to start trade talks with the UK Dems push for US, EU cooperation on China's market status US, EU team up on raw minerals trade case against China 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’."