Health

The investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions proposed in trade agreements give pharmaceutical corporations the right to sue governments for compensation if domestic laws negatively affect future earnings on their intellectual property or investments, and even if these laws are in accordance with public interests. Better access to medicines or preventing unsafe or ineffective medicines from entering the market could prove problematic.

Major US, Canadian and French pharmaceutical companies have recently challenged pro-public health measures through ISDS disputes brought under ISDS provisions.

Chemical corporations have also used ISDS in numerous occasions to challenge national bans on hazardous substances.

Most well-known cases include:

• Ethyl (US) vs. Canada: following Canada’s ban on the toxic petrol additive MMT, the US producer sued for US$201 million in compensation. In 1998, Canada agreed in a settlement to pay US$13 million and withdrew the ban (NAFTA invoked).

• Philip Morris Asia (Hong Kong) vs. Australia: When Australia introduced plain packaging for all tobacco products in 2011, Philip Morris sued Australia before an arbitral tribunal. In its December 2015 decision, the tribunal dismissed the case, albeit on legal grounds only. Australia spent A$39 million in legal costs (this figure might include a related World Trade Organization case) but Philip Morris only paid half, leaving the Australian taxpayers to pay the other half. As a consequence of this case, countries ranging from Namibia, Togo to New Zealand decided to wait to introduce their own plain packaging for tobacco products. (Australia-Hong Kong BIT invoked)

• Dow Chemical (US) vs. Canada: the chemical corporation initiated a dispute for losses it alleged were caused by a Quebec provincial ban on lawn pesticides containing the active ingredient 2,4-D, classified as a possible carcinogen and one of the ingredients in Agent Orange, the herbicide widely used during the Vietnam war. In a settlement in 2011, the ban was sustained but Quebec was required to state that “products containing 2,4-D do not pose an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment provided that the instructions on their label are followed.” (NAFTA invoked.)

(March 2020)

Euronews | 11-Jul-2016
La justice internationale a donné raison au gouvernement uruguayen dans son bras-de-fer avec le groupe Philip Morris.
Reuters | 9-Jul-2016
The World Bank’s ICSID ruled in favor of Uruguay in a suit filed by Philip Morris International seeking compensation for economic damages caused by the nation’s anti-tobacco measures.
ICTSD | 26-May-2016
The tribunal considered that the main and determinative reason for the 2011 restructuring was in order for the tobacco giant to bring a legal claim under the BIT Treaty, using a Hong Kong-based entity.
Health Canal | 19-May-2016
“Despite the losses and defeats, tobacco companies will keep coming back for more. They will fight on regardless in order to delay and disrupt the rollout of the World Health Organization’s best-practice tobacco control measures,”
Slovak Spectator | 11-May-2016
Slovakia has made a step towards reversing an arbitration ruling over the ban of generating profits on private health insurers, the Finance Ministry says.
Tele Sur | 30-Apr-2016
The Ecuadorean government is being forced to use money that could go toward relief efforts to instead pay off a multinational oil company.
Nueva Tribuna | 14-Apr-2016
Private arbitral tribunals will be able to impose multi-million fines on States whose parliaments have dared to legislate without taking into account corporate expectations.
New Statesman | 5-Apr-2016
One element of TTIP has been largely ignored – the deal’s impact on developing countries.
Nueva Tribuna | 7-Mar-2016
Tribunales privados de arbitraje podrán imponer multas multimillonarias a los Estados cuyos parlamentos hayan osado legislar sin tener en cuenta las expectativas de las empresas.
The Clinic | 12-Feb-2016
El domingo pasado el canciller, Heraldo Muñoz, tras firmar el Acuerdo de Asociación Transpacífico, que debe ser ratificado por el Parlamento, argumentó que las críticas se debían a desinformación. La organización civil, Chile mejor sin TPP, responde al secretario de Estado y refuta sus afirmaciones sobre los beneficios que traerá para el país el cuestionado acuerdo comercial.

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