Following the UK vote to leave the EU, the UK has to rethink its trade policies. Formal negotiations on new trade arrangements cannot begin until the UK exits the EU.
But we can take action right now on existing UK trade polices.
Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) are treaties between two countries that deal exclusively with the protections to be offered to international investors. In effect, they mean that companies have little need to undertake risk assessments because they know that people in the country they are investing in will always pick up the tab if the company’s profits are hit by government policy changes.
The UK has BITs with more than 100 countries. More than two-thirds of them are in the Global South.
BITs are bad news for health and democracy. The treaties allow companies to legally challenge a wide range of government policy decisions, including those on health, environmental legislation and labour laws.
This means that big companies can sue governments for implementing polices to improve health of their populations. Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly sued the Canadian government for $500 million for invalidating two of its patents and Philip Morris International sued Uruguay for US$25 million in respect of policies that the government put in place to reduce smoking in the country. Argentina has been sued 56 times for a number of polices including those intended to protect the right to water for its people.
Health Poverty Action is working with the Trade Justice Movement to call for a fundamental rethink of the UK’s approach to trade and investment. Getting our approach right for existing treaties will help to shape our future trade arrangements.
Please ask your MP to join the call for a fundamental change to the UK’s Bilateral Investment Treaties.
Check if your MP has already signed here.