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Attorney General Mills calls for greater transparency in foreign trade pact negotiations
June 11, 2015
(Augusta, Maine) Attorney General Janet T. Mills today called for greater transparency in trade negotiations and raised concerns about the possible effects of certain provisions of the trade deals on the enforcement of certain regulations and laws administered by the states. In a letter to Maine’s Congressional delegation, Mills decried the prospect of states having to defend their laws in unfriendly forums against challenges by international corporations.
The Attorney General met in person with United States Trade Representative Michael Froman in Washington, D.C., recently and discussed her concerns with the so-called “Investor State Dispute Settlement” provisions, which, she believes, could undermine Maine’s tobacco regulations, professional licensing laws and protections against predatory lending, among other things.
“It is important that treaties be forcefully negotiated and respected, with the interest of our national economy in the forefront,” Attorney General Mills stated. “These negotiations, however, should be conducted transparently and without risk to the important public health and safety interests embodied in decades of state and federal laws.”
Attorney General Mills also expressed concerns with a provision that has become a part of other trade agreements, called “Investor State Dispute Settlement” (ISDS), which allows international corporations to challenge a state law or regulation if the corporation feels that it impacts their ability to make a return on their investment. The ISDS dispute resolution system operates outside the traditional judicial system, has no established body of law to guide decisions, provides no right of appeal and allows investors to forum shop, ignoring state court precedents.
“Tobacco regulation, consumer protection laws, professional licensing standards and other health, safety, labor, consumer and natural resources laws could be challenged under the ISDS provisions,” said Attorney General Mills. “The intent of ISDS was to protect the more developed regulatory systems of the United States, but it may have the opposite effect, lowering standards in America and lowering the playing field, in the name of achieving ‘parity.’”