Agreements both between individual countries and agreements through the World Trade Organization (WTO) continue to take away local control over water and provide financial and legal power to corporations to trump our democracy.
Currently the WTO is negotiating expansions of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) which would expand the reach of the WTO to further encroach on local control. GATS will give more power to corporations and reduce the scope of governments to provide basic human services such as health, education and water. The existing GATS has gradually phased out government barriers to international trade and commercial competition in the services sector, such as protecting local ownership. Services include health, education, water, transportation, postal delivery, social security, and many others.
When a dispute does occur between a community and a corporation, the corporation has the right to bring the dispute to court, but in a court system where the public has no access and the proceedings are secret. Governments and communities do not hold the same power in dispute situations. Depending on the trade agreement, which is used by the company, the dispute can be settled in secret courts established in the WTO, the World Bank or United Nations. Such disputes often drag on for years, as a significant drain on poorer countries, and are used to award corporations lost future profits, It‚ also an easy way for corporations to exploit communities when they mismanage a project.