The whole point of any treaty or trade agreement is to bind yourself against doing some particular things that you otherwise have the right to do, in exchange for others similarly binding themselves. Our free trade agreement with Australia means we've lost the democratic power to levy big tariffs against imports from Australia.A group of prominent legal professionals, academics and political leaders has written to the negotiators of the Trans-Pacific Partnership calling on them to reject a provision that would allow investors to sue governments directly.The TPP agreement would cover Pacific Rim countries, including the United States and New Zealand.The open letter expresses concern that foreign investors are being granted greater rights than are provided to domestic firms and investors under the constitutions, laws and court systems of host countries.Signatory Professor Bryan Gould says this would mean a significant loss of the power of democratic self-government.He says governments could even be ordered to stop their courts from enforcing their own decisions.
Investor protection provisions mean we bind ourselves against imposing uncompensated takings on foreign-owned companies trading here in exchange for others binding themselves against doing similar things to our companies. It's defensible to argue that provisions might be too strong. And a defensible reading of Gould's line is that these provisions tie all governments' hands too much, though I'd likely disagree. But folks who go on about the anti-democratic nature of the agreements miss the point of trade agreements.