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President Biden,

We write to express our concern about the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses in existing U.S. trade and investment agreements.

As students entering the legal system, we believe that ISDS creates an uneven playing field that benefits corporations at the expense of Indigenous communities, workers, and the planet. 1

ISDS grants multinational corporations privileges and protections far beyond those afforded to domestic companies, private citizens, or their sovereign governments, by allowing them to sue governments in secret tribunals for millions and even billions of taxpayer dollars simply for putting sound public policy in place.

Unlike traditional legal systems, the corporate lawyers who typically serve as ISDS arbitrators can switch between representing parties and deciding cases, a phenomenon known as “double-hatting.” These arbitrators are not bound by jurisprudence and can decide cases in unexpected and even contradictory ways, adding to the unreliable nature of the ISDS system.

To highlight the unfair nature of this system, only corporations can sue governments, not vice versa. These governments are then forced to defend themselves in costly proceedings, so even a “win” can mean taxpayer money is diverted from education, infrastructure, health care, and other social services to a foreign corporation. 2

We are not alone. UN experts have found that ISDS runs counter to the international human rights obligations that were built to establish a common global framework for all legal practitioners, policymakers, and communities. 3 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that ISDS may prevent countries from taking urgent steps to fight climate change. 4 Most recently, over 200 U.S. organizations and 41 members of the U.S. Congress called on your administration to remove ISDS from existing trade and investment agreements.

By unfairly prioritizing corporate interests over sovereignty and the rule of law, ISDS threatens some of the foundational principles of justice under the law.

While we appreciate that your administration has committed to refrain from including ISDS clauses in new trade and investment agreements, further action is needed to protect people and the planet from ISDS.

We call on you to use all means at your disposal to remove Investor-State Dispute Settlement clauses from all existing trade and investment agreements.

Signed,



1. See: Stiglitz, J. (2013, Nov. 8). Developing Countries are Right to Resist Restrictive Trade Agreements. The Guardian, and Wang, C., Ning, J., & Zhang, X. (2021, July 22). International Investment and Indigenous Peoples’ Environment: A Survey of ISDS Cases from 2000 to 2020. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(15).
2. See: Stiglitz, J. (2013, Nov. 8). Developing Countries are Right to Resist Restrictive Trade Agreements. The Guardian, and Wang, C., Ning, J., & Zhang, X. (2021, July 22). International Investment and Indigenous Peoples’ Environment: A Survey of ISDS Cases from 2000 to 2020. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(15).
3. The United Nations. (2015, August 5). Report of the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Document A/70/285.
4. https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg3/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGIII_FullReport.pdf.

Visit the links below to learn more about ISDS:

The Worst of the Worst: Egregious Corporate Attacks on Public Interest Policies
Public Citizen

Primer on International Investment Treaties and Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Columbia Center for Sustainable Development


International trade: UN expert calls for abolition of Investor-State dispute settlement arbitrations
United Nations Human Rights