Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The Rise of the Corporates

It must be frustrating if you're the CEO of a global corporate with a turnover equal to the GDP of a middling State. For a start, your company has to obey lots of laws made by ordinary people - laws which (horror!) even prevent your full profit-making. And then there's the impertinence of elected governments which won't allow you to sell your most profitable products; for firms like Monsanto, pumping out GM seeds sterile in the F1 generation, or Beyer pumping out Neonicotinoid pesticides, such State interference in their trading activities is insufferable.

But help is at hand. A new EU / US trade treaty contains provisions for a 'dispute settlement' process between the large corporates and sovereign states. Any government that 'discriminates' against free trade (i.e. against the big corporates) can find itself at a tribunal - and liable to a hefty fine. 

The Indie reports the current fight against the introduction of the ISDS proposals in the new treaty. This round, the protests may be successful. However, the day is coming when the big global corporates claim equal status with sovereign states. Today it is a block on our ability to ban their products - tomorrow it may extend to a veto on all national legislation 'against the commercial interests' of international firms.


cuffleyburgers said...

Hi Radders

I think the point is that where governments make some arbitrary focus-group-led change in the law which costs large amounts of money to large companies which are the backbone of our wealth then the companies should have some legal recourse.

And as an idea it is not wholly mistaken, given the quality and incontinence of our lawmakers. It is not as though our having to vote for them periodically leads them to take decisions which are genuinely in our own interests, and you know that better than I do.

In fact you could argue that large multinationals have more democratic legitimacy than governments because our choosing to buy from one company rather than another is a much more genuine choice than one set of bastards as opposed to another just the same, given that whomever you vote for the government still wins.

The problem is of course that in practice the corporatist stitch up that is modern government means that the operation of the market is skewed in favour of certain multinationals and laws are already made in their favour, so this measure can safely be anticipated to have alarming unintended consequences.

We will shortly have to start thinking seriously about rising up and slaughtering the bastards.

Ed P said...

The Fascism is no longer covert

Anonymous said...

It's gone too far, the customer was king?

The EU is beholden to the multinationals, it is a very non virtuous circle; unelected [soon to be in the boardroom is some cases] politician's change the rules to suit and the bankers and the CEO's, who are then happy and the workers and the customer are always the cunts, bent over and fucked.

The conglomerates now dictate the market, not the other way around and that is too much, too far.

Britain, needs to assert her sovereignty and tell the multinationals to bugger off.

Raedwald said...

cuffleyburgers -

You're right, of course. It's not a one-way street. As with tobacco restrictions or alcohol or sugar discrimination, governments often make laws that inhibit personal freedom of choice.

However, can you imagine Distillers plc having the right to challenge the US government in the '20s over prohibition?

Corporates love EU regulation - they're far better placed to meet the bureaucratic demands than small firms. What's an intolerable burden for small firms is just a negligible overhead for the corporates. Likewise EU social measures such as working hours, maternity leave and the rest - easy for the corporates to absorb, a killer for SMEs.

So you won't find big companies campaigning for less 'red tape' - they love the stuff.

G. Tingey said...

Ed P
Spot on.
Now, what shall we call the giant corporates?
I G Farben?

Anthem said...

Seems to me, then, that your issue is more to do with bureaucratic meddling in trade than with the corporates?

As you note, a lot of this meddling which the public cries out for supposedly as a means to extract money from those wicked corporates actually plays into their hands at the expense of fledging enterprises which don't have the resources to compete.

cuffleyburgers said...

@ Radders - absolutely.

Matt said...

The worst thing about it is how they (both the corporates and the state governments) effectively ban the products and working practices of small companies and individuals. They do this by placing "compliance" criteria on the affected trades which are prohibitively expensive for small businesses to meet. The governments are to blame for implementing the rules, the corporates for lobbying for them.

No doubt any new channels of legal challenge to government interference will also be prohibitively expensive for anyone other than a multinational to pursue.

Peter Ward said...

One of Robert Heinlein's books -- I forget which -- contained the idea that large corporates were the equivalent of countries, and that their employees were their citizens. That must have been 60+ years ago.