Considering the way that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has set up the Investor-State Dispute Settlement or ISDS process the only logical step for corporations who claim to be frustrated by US laws is to move their corporate headquarters out of the United States. Then they can be in a position to sue the United States to overturn laws and regulations that they feel get in their way. The corporation also gets the benefit of tax laws for corporation headquartered overseas.
This is a new corporate process called inversion. Currently the incentive for a corporation to invert itself, that is to move their corporate headquarters out of the country they primarily do business in, the United States, to a country where they have much lesser interests is to take advantage of loopholes in the US tax laws. Burger King bought itself a whole lot of bad publicity and nasty headlines when they bought Canadian doughnut maker Tim Horton’s with the express purpose of moving their HQ to Canada to avoid US taxes.
Burger King felt they could weather the bad publicity because America has the attention span of a gnat. The move is in process and based on media coverage Burger King bet correctly. Their move is no longer covered and it is business as usual while avoiding US taxes.
Walgreen’s announced they were going to invert their structure but called off the move in the face of some blisteringly bad publicity.
Now Monsanto, like Burger King and Walgreen’s, is making an offer to buy the much smaller Swiss based agribusiness Syngenta. Should the takeover take place then Monsanto has made no bones about moving their HQ from St. Louis to Switzerland to save up to $500 million per year in taxes. They have no loyalty to the country that gave them the means to grow.
Now along with the tax savings, Monsanto will be able to take their complaints about US laws and regulations to an ISDS arbitration board. Since treaties can supersede US laws, this may put corporations in a great position to attack laws and regulations that they have claimed over the years to be detrimental. We saw a small example of that just last week when the WTO ruled that the US can no longer require country of origin labeling for meat. Plan for many more disputes like tis from TPP and its Atlantic twin, the TTIP.
By the way, this should remind folks that corporations are not people despite what 5 members of the Supreme Court ruled. There is no loyalty to the US. With TPP corporations may finally have the tool they have always wanted to control US laws to their liking.
commondreams.org discusses Monsanto’s maneuver, noting the corporate “win-win” that Monsanto will reap:
Earlier this month, Monsanto made an initial offer to purchase the Swiss-based Syngenta. The deal, if completed, would allow Monsanto to move its headquarters from outside St. Louis to Switzerland, thereby reducing U.S. corporate tax payments. According to financial analysts at the investment firm Piper Jaffray, Monsanto would gain – and U.S. taxpayers would lose – about $500 million per year in tax revenues.
Monsanto, in fact, can attribute much of its growth over the last decade to past trade deals. Most other countries around the world, including key markets in the European Union, have taken a more precautionary approach to genetically engineered crops than in the U.S. – both in approvals for agricultural production, and in requiring clear labeling for consumers. In collaboration with the U.S. Trade Representative, Monsanto and the agrichemical industry have aggressively used trade rules in bilateral agreements as well as at the World Trade Organization (successfully challenging Europe’s biotech regulatory regime) to try to strike down higher-standard public health and environmental requirements for GE foods in other countries.
There seems to be no limit to the lengths to which the Obama administration will go to support Monsanto and the biotech industry. Earlier this month, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack accused the European Union of undermining efforts to address global hunger, because of a new EU proposal to allow its member countries greater power in regulating GE crops. Vilsack threatened that the EU’s decision raises “serious issues” about the future of TTIP, and officials in Washington have threatened another WTO challenge. The EU’s regulatory approach is troubling to Vilsack and Monsanto because their collective goal is to eliminate what they call sub-federal regulations. In the case of Europe, it is country-level regulations. In the U.S., it is state-level mandatory GMO labeling laws.
Both TPP and TTIP include intellectual property rules that protect Monsanto’s patented GE crops. They also include special corporate rights provisions, known as investor-state rules. These provisions would grant corporations legal rights to potentially challenge new laws, like state-level labeling of genetically engineered foods, that inhibit investors’ expectations.
Don’t forget, Iowa’s senators, Grassley and Ernst, are 100% behind these trade deals.