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ATTAC Argentina | October 2013
Freely translated by Anoosha Boralessa in 2015 for bilaterals.org
We reject the offers made by the Argentine government to pay the ICSID claims
Declaration from ATTAC Argentina:
We declare that we reject the offer made by the Argentine government to pay 500 million dollars to five transnational corporations that sued our country before the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). To
make such payments would be to justify looting our public coffers on the basis of concessions granted to the companies through bilateral investment treaties (BITs) that Argentina signed in the 1990s and that are in force today, coupled with the unsavoury process of privatising public services during the Menem era.
At issue are claims brought by the following companies:
– Azurix, a concessionholder of Enron, the company bankrupted as a result of an internationally known fraud. Azurix was providing drinking water and sanitation in the province of Buenos Aires, but its contract was terminated in 2002;
– Blue Ridge, a fund which bought off the award granted in the CMS Gas Transmission Company case, again resulting from termination of the contract in 2002;
– Vivendi, in the case of Aguas del Aconquija for the provision of drinking water in Tucman;
– National Grid, a British Company, part of Transener, and
– Continental Casualty Company (a shareholder of CNA, a company providing workers’ compensation that had Argentine treasury bills in pesos convertible to dollars.
All the claims were lodged by the companies in the ICSID arbitral centre, an agency of the World Bank following the devaluation of the Argentine peso in January 2002, in the context of the largest social and economic crisis in our country’s history, on the grounds that the Argentine state had changed the contractual conditions it had agreed to.
These five claims together with others, total more than 40 that transnational corporations have brought before ICSID.
If Argentina has to pay for all the claims filed in this arbitral centre, it will have to pay out 65 billion dollars. This represents 13.7 percent of Argentina’s GDP.
It must be recalled following that companies can bring a claim against the Argentine State before ICSID as a result of the signing of 55 BITs in the 1990s aimed at generating so called legal security.These treaties are really a compendium of prerogatives for foreign investors, tying the state’s hands, preventing it from carrying out public policies that can go against investors’ interests. It is because of BITs that companies can bring a claim against a state in international arbitration centres such as ICSID.
It is for this reason that ATTAC ARGENTINA expresses the view that it is urgent that Argentina both withdraws from the ICSID Convention and declares the bilateral investment treaties of no effect. It is with this aim in mind that we have joined the national and international campaign against ICSID and BITs, which counts on the support of numerous social and political organisations and trade unions at the national and the global level. Argentina is not an isolated case. There are initiatives at the regional and international level of cases where countries have taken the decision, which they have the sovereign right to take, to withdraw from ICSID (such as Bolivia, Ecuador or Venezuela) or to reassess their relationship with the arbitration regime that is currently in force (as in the cases of Ecuador, South Africa or Australia) so that coordinated action can be taken to subjugate transnational corporations to the sovereign regulations of states and the rights of the people and not vice versa. We take the position that Argentina has the tools not only to be part of the process but also to be at the vanguard by declaring its BITs null and void, withdrawing from ICSID and abandoning definitively the neoliberal conditions it submitted to two decades ago.
Paying these claims runs counter to this political opportunity to respect the rights of its people.