The free trade myth
By New Internationalist: So-called free trade deals, like the proposed, post-Brexit US-UK arrangement, are designed to maximize US corporate profits and privatize resources in other nations, including land, water, services, and intellectual property. They have less to do with trade and more to do with lowering standards in third countries so that US corporations can benefit from tax breaks, de-unionized labour and low import tariffs.
‘Free trade’ ideology has many weapons in its arsenal: secrecy over trade agreements, corporate media support in the run-up to implementation and bipartisan political endorsement. And most astonishing are the secret arbitration arrangements called Inter-State Dispute Settlements (ISDSs) which enable corporations to sue governments.
These clauses undermine democracy because they are conducted in secret and threaten government budgets, particularly in poorer countries. They make vulnerable governments more amenable to corporate dominance because the mere threat of a law suit is enough to frighten host nations into submission. According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), by 2017 there were 855 known ISDS cases. But given the secrecy of ISDS, the true number may never be known.