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$24 million in legal costs 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)

Le Temps | 23-Oct-2020
Le Pérou, le Mexique et l’Argentine sont menacés de plaintes par des multinationales pour des mesures adoptées pendant la crise. Le Chili aussi, où un référendum pour une nouvelle constitution a lieu le 25 octobre
Friends of the Earth International | 20-Oct-2020
Our call to suspend all ISDS cases during and beyond the COVID-19 crisis.
Friends of the Earth International | 20-Oct-2020
Notre appel à suspendre tous les procès ISDS pendant et après la crise de la COVID-19.
Friends of the Earth International | 20-Oct-2020
Nuestro llamado a suspender todos los casos del ISDS durante y después de la crisis de COVID-19.
CIAR Global | 8-Oct-2020
El proyecto de ley para avanzar en la compra de la vacuna Covid19 en Argentina contemplará la petición de los laboratorios farmacéuticos de incluir la protección jurídica a través de arbitraje, condición que tienen que respetar todos los países.
Mondaq | 29-Sep-2020
By acknowledging the procedural and substantive weaknesses of ISDS, this article will touch upon proposals for reform.
National Magazine | 11-Sep-2020
Tensions are likely to surface between the public-policy directions of governments managing a challenging economic climate and foreign investors’ private interests.
Diario 16 | 7-Sep-2020
El 19 de febrero de 2010, la empresa tabaquera más grande del mundo, Philip Morris, presentó una demanda contra Uruguay ante el Centro Internacional de Arreglo de Diferencias relativas a Inversiones (CIADI), en la que se alegaba la violación del Tratado Bilateral de Inversión entre Suiza y Uruguay.
International Law Office | 4-Sep-2020
With state measures in response to COVID-19 being compounded by an already difficult economic environment for investors, they may have little choice but to challenge those measures.
Corrs Chambers Westgarth | 28-Aug-2020
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, governments globally are engaging in a difficult balancing act of protecting public health, mitigating economic damage and avoiding interference with private rights.

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