One of the main controversies surrounding both transatlantic trade deals, TTIP between the USA and the European Union and CETA, between Canada and the European Union, is the ISDS clause.

Why has no one tried to seal the deal but without the ISDS?


2 Answers 2


How feasible would it be to revive transatlantic trade deals without the special court systems (ISDS)


Intercontinental trade has gone on for centuries without special international court systems, so why would one be absolutely required nowadays? What is supposed to be so different this time? I haven't seen a convincing answer yet.

Note that the British East-Indian Company and the Dutch VOC held a much larger share of intercontinental trade in their time than any company nowadays, and they didn't need this kind of protection.

So yes, it would be very feasible to have transatlantic trade deals without special court systems. Companies know how to operate in such circumstances, as they have done so for centuries.

  • 1
    I don't think they're asking if it's possible, I think they're asking whether it's feasible at the current time. If they removed the ISDS clause from TTIP and CETA, is it likely that those deals would be approved?
    – divibisan
    Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 22:01
  • @divibisan In that case, apparently the only thing standing in the way are the politicians themselves, as the deal is feasible when you remove them from the equation. So why are politicians in the way? That would be speculating at best, so can't be the purpose of this question.
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 9:23
  • Sjoerd answers half my question here, if indeed the current agreements can be remade to not include ISDS without much difficulty then why is there no political will to do so? It is as if politics is 'not working' because no political group seems interested in giving the voters what they want, or even promising them what they want, as politicians traditionally do. Explaining why this is the case is the second part of my question, and i don't believe it is entirely speculative. Eg on retirement age political parties will make promises they could not keep if in power.
    – Ivana
    Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 22:54

ISDS at its core it is a protection against populism. This is a growing concern internationally. TTIP is no exception. The US looks at France trying to tax Facebook, Apple and Google, while the EU considers Trump as the most populist US president in modern times.

  • 3
    This is at best partially true, as policies against smoking are decidedly anti-populist but are still fought against by tobacco company Philip Morris Asia for example. Also it does not answer the question. If ISDS-es are the main reason international trade deals fall through, scrap them and save the deal. Even if it would not be the best solution for some, why has it not even been tried?
    – Ivana
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 10:36
  • @Ivana: Countries may have set up ISDS for anti-populists reasons, but Philip Morris isn't a country. They'll try to see if ISDS works for their goals. PM doesn't care about populism. As for trade deals stalling on ISDS, remember that in most cases the alternative is an older trade deal.
    – MSalters
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 10:44
  • I had assumed that governments want ISDS because they are being lobbied by companies. Now that formerly nationally owned companies (national airlines, national telecom service, and so on) are publicly sold, there is i think less and less reason to listen to companies. Unless you are saying governments want ISDS to protect investments from one country in another. In that case, if the stakes are sufficiently high, i could see why countries would rather have no or an outdated agreement then one without ISDS. Is this the case?
    – Ivana
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 12:22

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