Ash Denham MSP has called on the Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox to preclude any commitments to investor-state dispute settlements in the UK Trade Bill.
Expert witnesses at the Finance and Constitution Committee today raised concerns that the UK Trade Bill remains unclear over the potential use of investor-state dispute settlements in any future trade agreements to settle international trade disputes.
Investor-state dispute settlements are an instrument of international law that enables international corporations to sue host states for alleged discriminatory practices, such as loss of profits stemming from public policy.
The Trade Bill as currently drafted would grant the UK Government sweeping powers to negotiate future trade deals on Scotland’s behalf- including in areas that are devolved to the Scottish Parliament such as agriculture and health. But at present the Bill contains no provisions for allowing parliamentary scrutiny by Holyrood.
Concerns were raised by Committee witnesses that as a result Scotland could be left open to lawsuits from international corporations under trade treaties negotiated without the consent of the Scottish Government, if the Trade Bill did not explicitly reject their use in future trade deals.
Ash Denham MSP, member of the Finance and Constitution Committee, commented:
“This Tory government’s post—Brexit trade policy appears committed to an economic race to the bottom, cutting away at regulations and carving up the economy up for international corporations’ profits.
“The SNP refuse to be held ransom by a corrosive mechanism that exists to tie the hands of government, and are committed to signing trade deals that are both beneficial for the Scottish economy and in the public interest.
“There are numerous examples of governments being sued by international corporations in the name of profit, and there is a real danger that Scotland could be dragged without our consent by the UK Government into trade agreements that use investor-state dispute settlements, leaving us open to lawsuits in the future.
“This Trade Bill is extremely important in setting the tone for future trade deals for this country and Scotland cannot be restricted by future trade agreements that put profits above people.
“That is why I am calling on Liam Fox to reject the use of investor-state dispute settlements in future trade deals and to commit to that in the UK Trade Bill.”