Warren ramping up opposition to Pacific trade deal

Warren ramping up opposition to Pacific trade deal
© Greg Nash

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' The Trojan Horse of protectionism Federal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review MORE is rallying congressional lawmakers to oppose a massive Asia-Pacific trade agreement over an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) regime she argues will change U.S. laws and hurt consumers and workers.

The Massachusetts Democrat, who sparred with President Obama last year over the international conflict resolution system, joined more than than 220 law professors and economists in calling on Congress to reject the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) over the inclusion of the ISDS in the agreement. 

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The reignited efforts by Warren to stop the Pacific deal are in response to the president's pursuit of a vote on the TPP after the November elections and before he leaves office. 

Warren told reporters on a Wednesday conference call that ISDS allows for “rigged pseudo-courts” that undermine U.S. law.

“It’s about leverage for big companies to threaten and intimidate governments that might dare take action that threatens their profits,” Warren said.  

The Obama administration has said improvements were made to the ISDS process during TPP negotiations. But Warren called those changes merely “window dressing” that don’t address major concerns.

Warren told reporters that while the ISDS regime hasn’t hurt the United States yet, “giving foreign corporations special rights to challenge laws outside of the legal system is a bad deal to everyone except those corporations."

In 2015, Warren went head-to-head with the president and other members of his administration over the intent of the conflict resolution procedures.

In a new letter sent to Congress on Wednesday, the law professors and economists argued that TPP would allow thousands more multinational corporations to challenge U.S. laws across all levels.

Public Citizen, which spearheaded the media call, said their research shows that the TPP includes nations with more than 9,000 corporate subsidiaries in the United States, which would double the exposure of the United States to ISDS lawsuits.

The letter is similar to one sent in March 2015 calling for ISDS to be left out of the Pacific trade deal.

“We therefore urge you to protect the rule of law and our nation’s democratic institutions and sovereignty by rejecting this TPP as long as ISDS is included,” the letter said.

“This system undermines the important roles of our domestic and democratic institutions, threatens domestic sovereignty, and weakens the rule of law,” the letter said.

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - What do Manchin and Sinema want? MORE (D-Va.), who is Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE’s running mate, has said the ISDS system is the main reason why he decided to oppose the TPP trade agreement.

On Tuesday, the Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America came out against the TPP because of ISDS.

But the National Association of Manufacturers said the call and letter represent a continued smoke and mirrors approach that anti-TPP opponents have been using for years, “rehashing the same tired, false and discredited critiques of ISDS."

Linda Dempsey, NAM’s vice president for international economic affairs, defended ISDS as "a respected mechanism, fully in line with our own Constitution and basic rules, that helps protect individuals, NGOs and businesses alike from discriminatory and unfair conduct."

She said there are plenty of examples of Congress rejecting the idea of shelving the process.

The Senate rejected Warren's amendment last year to eliminate ISDS from the trade promotion authority law, which includes explicit direction to negotiate the process in new trade agreements.

“At its core, ISDS is about ensuring individuals, NGOs and businesses that are or have invested some basic protections so that foreign governments cannot steal their property, or deny them basic rights such as due process and non-discrimination,” Dempsey said.