Growing Resistance Against Corporate Rule
The "Multilateral Agreement on Investment" (MAI) is a little known treaty on foreign investment now under negotiation in the Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD). It is likely to become a very hot issue in the next months.
Recently, European social movements have started to realise how devastating the impacts of this treaty would be. MAI would do to invest-ment what GATT
did to trade - hugely increase the powers of transnational corporations at the expense of demo-cracy, social protection and the environment.
In the Netherlands, groups within the "Dutch Coalition for a Different Europe" are preparing a series of public meetings and actions to kickstart the
debate on MAI. In Germany, citizens' groups have just launched a national campaign against the MAI. Europe's first demonstration against MAI took place outside the OECD head quarters in December.
Time is short as the OECD strives to finish negotiations by April 1998! (NB They didn't achieve this...)
The OECD - a club of 29 rich industrialized countries, including all 15 EU countries - hopes that the rest of the world, in particular the Third World, will sign the treaty when it is ready. These countries however have no say whatsoever in the negotiations. Countries like India and Malaysia protest
against this undemocratic process. They have rejected the treaty because it fails to defend the interests of the people in the Third World.
Main Points of the MAI
The main principles of the MAI are:
If a country signs the MAI treaty it can only resign after 5 years, but the rules are still valid for another 15 years!
- unlimited access - national or subnational governments cannot block any foreign investment that is in line with MAI (and that goes for all sectors except for police and military)
- no conditions - govern-ments cannot set any special conditions for the foreign investor ("perform-ance criteria", for instance, to ensure creation of local employment)
- foreign investors should be treated as good or better than local producers (eg by getting access to all existing subsidies)
Free Market Fundamentalism
The starting point of the MAI is that foreign investments and a deregulated ("free") market is always good. The reality is different: depend-ency on foreign investments more often leads to growing inequalities between poor and rich, plundering of natural resources, environmental degradation and loss of employment.
In these times where the international financial markets create disasters and people get increasingly worried about globalization running wild, MAI is
the last thing needed. There is an urgent need for a treaty that regulates the behaviour of transnational corporations, not a MAI that gives them further rights and freedom!
A Disaster For Everyone
Hardly anybody has heard of MAI, but the impacts would be disastrous, for example:
- MAI would mean the end to existing limits for foreign investors on areas like health care, agriculture, education and natural resources. MAI in principle gives foreign investors the right to access all existing government subsidy systems.
- MAI would even endanger EU environmental policies. Foreign corporations could demand financial compensation for new regulations which they consider discriminatory. This would make new environmental legislation almost impossible.
- MAI would make it impossible to introduce economic sanctions like the ones that helped end apartheid in South Africa.
Manchester Earth First (0161 226 6814, firstname.lastname@example.org)