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UN expert says binding treaty on business & human rights is needed to curb adverse impacts of intl. trade agreements; Philip Morris responds

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23 November 2015

Philip Morris: we are defending our business, not attacking human rights

Author: Marc Firestone, Senior vice-president and general counsel, Philip Morris International

Despite emphasising the role of the United Nations in maintaining justice and respect for obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law, Alfred de Zayas…fails to add that the UN defines the rule of law as a principle of accountability and equality for “all persons, institutions and entities, public and private … consistent with international human rights, norms and standards”.  There is no inherent tension in protecting fundamental rights of the private sector while protecting human rights…Investment protection is an act of sovereignty that results from negotiations between states…The implication that our case has “chilled” governments from enacting tobacco control rules is erroneous…PMI has brought only two ISDS cases among over 600 reported cases, and we did not bring them lightly. The Uruguayan government knows that we prefer amicable resolutions to litigation and that we remain available for constructive discussion with authorities in Uruguay and elsewhere…Governments that respect the rule of law have nothing to fear from the possibility of independent, objective review of regulatory measures.

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19 November 2015

UN expert says binding treaty on business & human rights is needed to curb adverse impacts of intl. trade agreements

Author: Alfred de Zayas, UN independent expert on promotion of democratic & equitable international order

“How can Philip Morris sue Uruguay over its tobacco laws?”, 16 Nov 2015

…[I]nvestor-state dispute settlement (ISDS)…threatens the existing system of justice, the concept of checks and balances, the very core of the rule of law.  Its implications for the respect of human rights around the world are devastating…Far from contributing to human rights and development, the international investment regime and ISDS have resulted in growing inequality among states and within them…The system is neither transparent nor accountable and often results in aberrant judgments without the possibility of appeal…The last 25 years have delivered numerous examples of abuse of rights by investors and unconscionable ISDS arbitral awards, which have not only led to violations of human rights, but have had a chilling effect, deterring states from adopting necessary regulations on waste disposal or tobacco control.  There is no justification for the existence of a privatised system of dispute settlement that is neither transparent nor accountable.  The ISDS cannot be reformed. It must be abolished…No one should underestimate the adverse human rights impacts of free trade and investment agreements on human rights, development and democratic governance…a binding treaty on business and human rights is long overdue.

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