ELIZABETH WARREN: I've joined with Senator Heitkamp, Senator Manchin and a number of other senators to propose a simple change to the fast-track bill, a change that would prevent Congress from using this expedited process on any trade deal that includes so-called investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions, and I come to the floor today to urge my colleagues to support this amendment.
ISDS is an obscure process that allows big companies to go to corporate-friendly arbitration panels that sit outside any court system in order to challenge laws they don't like.
These panels can force taxpayers to write huge checks to those big corporations with no need to file a suit in court, no appeals and no judicial review. Now, most Americans don't think that the minimum wage or anti-smoking regulations are trade barriers, but a foreign corporation used ISDS to sue Egypt after Egypt raised its minimum wage.
Tobacco giant Philip Morris went after Australia and Uruguay to stop their rules to cut smoking rates.
Under TPP, corporations can use these channels to challenge rules right here in America.
It wasn't always this way. ISDS has been around for a while. From 1959 to 2002 there were fewer than a hundred claims in the whole world. But boy, has that changed. In 2012 alone there were 58 corporate cases. Corporate lawyers figured out how powerful a tool these panels can be for corporate clients.
Huge financial penalties that these cases can impose on taxpayers have already caused New Zealand to give up on some tough anti-smoking rules. It's already caused Germany to pull back from clean water protections. And it's caused Canada to stand down on environmental protections.
If that worries you, you're not alone.
Experts from all over the political spectrum, conservatives and liberals, economists and legal scholars on the left and the right, opponents of trade deals and supporters of trade deals, have all argued that these corporate-friendly panels should be dropped from our future trade deals.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that we should not give "investors the power to sue foreign governments to weaken their environmental and public health rules."
Giving corporations special rights to challenge our laws outside our legal system is a terrible idea.
Experts from every place on the political spectrum have concluded that it's unfair, it undermines the rule of law, it threatens American sovereignty and it creates an end run around the democratic process. I urge my colleagues to support this Amendment so that we can keep these corporate-friendly panels out of future trade agreements.