Book Focuses on Controversial Legal Mechanism Used to Challenge Labor, Environmental, Consumer Protections Around the World
NEW YORK, NY– This week, Roosevelt Institute Fellow and political scientist Dr. Todd N. Tucker released a new book, Judge Knot: Politics and Development in International Investment Law, published by the London-based Anthem Press.
The book focuses on a controversial rulemaker of the global economy: investor-state dispute settlement tribunals (ISDS). ISDS is a legal mechanism that enables multinational corporations to sue governments over policies that the corporations claim interfere with their profit margins. Over the past 25 years, major corporations have used this mechanism to challenge labor, environmental, and consumer protections. Tucker argues that reforming this mechanism would bring about a more just, democratic global economic order—one prioritizes broadly-shared economic progress over the narrow interests of CEOs and shareholders.
“The debates over Trump’s recent steel tariffs are the latest example of public discourse on globalization devolving into a blunt pro-trade or anti-trade binary,” said Todd Tucker, the book’s author and the Roosevelt Institute’s trade policy expert. “But globalization’s effects are not inevitable. Rather, they are shaped by international rules and regulations. ISDS has become a major faultline in these debates, showing how much of international policy is geared towards servicing the needs of the 1 percent. But the answer isn’t de-globalization: it’s putting a broader range of economic and social interests on equal footing.”
Judge Knot opens with the story of Ira Rennert, a New York billionaire whose companies have used ISDS to try to evade justice. The legacy of his operations is toxic pollution on several continents. When one group of his victims from Peru sought justice in U.S. courts, Rennert used ISDS to frustrate their efforts. Years later, hundreds of Peruvian children are still waiting for a righting of an immoral wrong that includes brain damage, cancer, and respiratory failures. In the chapters that follow, the book explores how this system came to be, why companies use it, why arbitrators participate in it, and why it’s proved so resilient despite increasing criticism from both the left and the right.
Tucker’s book is rooted in five years of research into ISDS and interviews with arbitrators from hundreds of ISDS cases. And it arrives at a time when global economic policy is in the news, with the Trump administration moving to overhaul multiple trade deals and a potential trade conflict between the United States and China looming. Tucker’s perspectives on trade policy have recently been covered at outlets including Politico, Vox, and The Week.
Last year, the Roosevelt Institute released The Hidden Rules of Race: Barriers to an Inclusive Economy. Published by the Cambridge University Press, this book explored the ways that deeply entrenched disparities and rules continue to harm the lives and economic prospects of the African American community. In 2015, the Institute released Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy. Published by W.W. Norton & Co., this book was a full-throated rejection of trickle-down economics and offered a bold, positive vision for how to bring about an economy that would once again work for all Americans.
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