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In Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital, the activity "Free trade agreements and investments: profits for whom?" will take place this Friday 26th. The event is organized by REDES - Friends of the Earth Uruguay, Friends of the Earth International and the Transnational Institute of The Netherlands.
Friends of the Earth International is an environmentalist federation with grassroots organizations in nearly 80 countries, and REDES- FoE Uruguay is a member. The TNI focuses on the production of radical analyses and criticism on relevant global issues, it has alliances with social movements and proposes alternatives for a more sustainable, fair and democratic world, according to its website.
“Who are the beneficiaries of international trials by transnational companies against the State?”, “Investment Treaties under scrutiny: auditing treaties”, and “The Philip Morris vs. Uruguay case and its implications”, will be some of the main issues which will be discussed on Friday.
Alberto Villarreal, of REDES-FoE and international expert Cecilia Olivet, a Uruguayan working for the TNI will be the speakers at the event.
Olivet has just arrived to Uruguay from Guayaquil, Ecuador, where over 10 countries (the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – ALBA- and some allied states) met and created the Southern Countries Conference (intergovernmental coordination) for reciprocal assistance on conflicts with transnational corporations.
They also agreed to create an international observatory on State-investor disputes and promoted the establishment of regional spaces to solve controversies. They also promoted the need to implement this mechanism at the Union of South American
Nations (UNASUR) and take it to other countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Olivet has been following trade issues for years, especially Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), Investment Protection Agreements (IPAs), the role of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID, a World Bank body to solve corporations-States controversies) and their strategies to elect their judges, among other issues.
Villarreal has also been working on trade issues for over ten years, and in the past years he has been focusing on following the process of the international lawsuit filed by US tobacco company Philip Morris against Uruguay at the ICSID. He has also been analyzing a new generation of trade agreements, not between states, but between them and transnational corporations directly, such as the one signed by Uruguay with forestry and cellulose company Montes del Plata.
A press release issued on Wednesday by REDES-FoE states that this organization “has firmly questioned in several opportunities the FTAs signed by Uruguay with other countries, the investment chapters in these agreements, the investment protection agreements also signed with other countries, the direct agreements between transnational corporations and Uruguay, due to the opportunities they grant corporations against the national sovereignty of the country, among other things”.
The investment chapters in the FTAs are similar to those in the IPAs. Perhaps, what worries the most is the “opportunity granted to a private company to sue a country at extra-territorial tribunals”, said Villarreal, in an interview with Real World Radio on July 25th, 2012. “It is outrageous that this opportunity is given to investors. These conditions should at least be revised”, he added.
The member of REDES-FoE also warned about the consequences of these agreements, which he referred to as “concessions” and “blank checks” granted to investors. According to Villarreal, the current Latin American development model is based on extractivism and on the granting of sovereignty to investors. “We need to change that if we want fair sustainable development policies from an environmental and social point of view”, he concluded.
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