Investor-state dispute settlement has been heavily criticized by many people who are opposed to international trade and investment rules generally. Would making this kind of dispute settlement available to entities other than "investors" make it more palatable to the critics? This is from an article in Slate:
One specific nontariff issue that's crept into FTAs and causes alarm for environmentalists is something called "investor state dispute settlement." This basically lets a corporation sue for lost profits if a country in which said company does business makes laws that reduce the corporation's ability to make money. In the past, this kind of legal action was available to governments, but Chapter 11 of NAFTA gave corporations the key to the clubhouse. The problem, says Eileen Appelbaum, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, is that this clause doesn't offer any comparable legal option for consumers or watchdog groups to challenge corporate practices that they believe violate environmental, human rights, or other regulations. ...
So should we add consumer-state, union-state and NGO-state mechanisms to trade agreements, providing for enforcement of, inter alia, the environment and labor chapters of FTAs, so as to counterbalance the special rights given to investors? More on this from Thea Lee of the AFL-CIO (from the previous post):
We have talked a lot about whether unions, for example, should have the right to sue another government if it is not in compliance with a labor chapter, and whether we would have the opportunity to bypass our own government, so that we wouldn't have to convince our government to bring that case. Everything but the investment language in the trade agreement is adjudicated on a government-to-government basis. I think it creates a huge imbalance in the trade agreements, certainly, if you give one group, private investors, the right to sue. Even in the context of the bilateral investment treaties, it creates an imbalance between private companies and governments.