Shadow Courts: The Tribunals that Rule Global Trade


The Trans-Pacific Partnership has become the most controversial trade agreement in decades. As both opponents and supporters point out, the TPP is not just about lowering familiar trade barriers, such as tariffs. Like other recent agreements, it seeks to govern everything from intellectual property rules to environmental protections. As these aspects of the proposal have become clear, American voters and politicians on both sides of the aisle have grown concerned about the deal, possibly jeopardizing future trade liberalization as well.

The least known but most worrisome provision in recent trade deals is known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement, a process that allows global corporations to challenge the governments of sovereign states. In her new book, Shadow Courts: The Tribunals that Rule Global Trade, investigative journalist Haley Sweetland Edwards offers the first detailed, well-reported look at look at how the private ISDS process protects some, to the detriment of public policy, democracy, and often environmental and labor rights.

Please join New America’s Political Reform program, Haley Sweetland Edwards, and Todd Tucker for a conversation about what trade agreements look like in the 21st century and how the Investor-State Dispute Settlement process could be improved and made to work as intended—not as a tool to shift the global balance of power.

Follow the conversation online using #ShadowCourts and by following@PolReformNA.


Haley Sweetland Edwards
Correspondent, Time
Author, Shadow Courts: The Tribunals that Rule Global Trade

Todd Tucker
Fellow, Roosevelt Institute