The Council of Canadians was one of 125 global movements and civil society groups to endorse this statement of solidarity with efforts in Latin America, led by the Ecuador government, to reform the investment arbitration system. This corporate-biased regime, found in most Canadian free trade agreements with Latin America and globally, as well as in treaties like the Canada-China FIPA, NAFTA and proposed for the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, is being challenged globally as an assault on democracy that must be radically changed or dismantled.

Statement of social movements and civil society organizations regarding the proposals of the 1st Ministerial Conference of Latin American States affected by the interests of transnationals

As social movements and civil society organizations, we consider International Investment Agreements (IIAs) — such as the Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) and investment chapters in the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and other similar, so called, Association Agreements — to be part of an architecture of impunity of transnational corporations (TNCs). As such they undermine peoples’ and nature’s rights, as well as the sovereignty and constitutions of nations, democracy and the public interest. These agreements further consolidate the asymmetry of laws that propagate that the rights and power of corporations are protected by ‘hard law’ and are above the rights of peoples and communities. We believe that Nation-states should have not only the obligation but also the full freedom to implement laws and policies in favour of the people and the environment, without the threat of being sued by transnational capital.

For this reason, for many years, we have been promoting and we are part of active national, regional and international campaigns like the struggles against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), the FTAA, the WTO, and later the struggles against BITs and FTAs from the European Union, the United States and Canada with developing countries; the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP); and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). We also form part of the continental campaign against BITs and for a new regional financial architecture, and the Global Campaign Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity, among others.

In this regard, we propose advancing an alternative legal framework for international economic relations that is based on democratic principles of solidarity and justice, and prioritizes the rights of humans and nature over private interests and profits. This framework should include binding obligations for private and public transnational corporations on issues of human rights, as well as economic, labour, social rights, and respect for Mother Nature. It should also guarantee governments’ possibility to enact public policy for the realization of these rights. In this context, any investment agreement should also include a mechanism for public participation and democratic discussion with representatives of the relevant social sectors.

Therefore, we, the undersigned organizations:

1) Express our solidarity with the people who suffer daily the impacts and consequences of the actions of corporations, either private or public. We also recognize the efforts of people and governments that have undertaken specific actions to prevent harmful corporate investments and ensure that sovereignty, self-determination and the rights of peoples and nature are respected.

2) Reject the demands of investors and transnational corporations in international tribunals, and particularly the billionaires’ arbitration awards against States. These tribunals that overwhelmingly represent the interests of transnational capital over the interests of people from sued countries. We reiterate our solidarity with the people and countries affected, along with our demand that States annul, denounce and stop signing the various agreements and treaties that unlawfully subjected them to foreign jurisdictions and violate rights.

3) In the same spirit, we welcome the organization of the First Ministerial Conference of Latin American States affected by transnational interests, held in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on 22 April. We remain hopeful that this initiative flourishes, especially because of the urgent need to put an end to transnational investments from private or public capital that do not contribute to the good living of people and of nature.

4) Taking note of the various proposals included in the final declaration of the Conference, we support the creation of an International Observatory on investment disputes, the establishment of the Permanent Conference of Latin American States affected by the interests of transnational corporations; and the search of global agreements between countries of the South that reinforces the defense of our people and countries against the actions of transnational corporations. We are committed to contribute timely to these processes with our experience, observations and recommendations.

We will remain vigilant to make this happen, with the hope that this initiative is not limited to private transnational corporations but also covers state corporations as well as a comprehensive mechanism for repairing the impacts on people and nature.

5) Taking note that the Declaration refers to the need to create mechanisms for ongoing dialogue with social movements and organizations. We believe that such mechanisms could be a step conducive to the creation and consolidation of a process of direct participation of the people and movements. We offer the knowledge and experience of our organizations and movements, accumulated over decades of work, to contribute to the task at hand. We are ready to start a dialogue to discuss the way forward in making concrete these mechanisms.

6) In the same context of dialogue and in order to have meaningful participation, we specifically request information regarding some of the regional proposals that are moving forward, such as the regional mechanism for the settlement of investor-State disputes currently under negotiation in UNASUR.

List of signatories