Defeat the Multilateral Agreement on Invesment

Proposed global trade treaty would threaten workers,
the enviorement and democracy

The Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) is a bill of internationally enforceable rights and freedoms for corporations against most types of government regulation. Although hardly anyone knows what the MAI says and what it would do, if passed, it has the potential to be the strongest weapon yet for huge multi- national corporations against the world’s workers, democracy and the environment. Because there are no internationally enforceable treaties to protect human, labor or environmental rights, MAI very literally gives corporations more legal rights than people or governments.

In April, international trade representatives at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris announced that they were shelving for six months negotiations on the MAI. This gives opponents of MAI a short period in which to rally to defeat the treaty. Because the MAI is so dangerous, it is essential that people quickly learn what the MAI is and build a global movement to smash it.

Although the agreement is hundreds of pages long and complex, the core of the treaty makes the right to invest and move money a legally enforceable private property right. MAI would for the first time in history give transnational corporations standing equal to governments to sue other national, state or local governments in either local or international courts. Suits could be brought seeking hundreds of millions of dollars of damages if any national, state or local government made any rule which restricted corporate actions in a way considered to be tantamount to expropriation. This definition would not require that a government actually take property from a corporation. Regulations, including those preventing an investment which was merely planned, would be enough.

For example, under rules similar to the MAI contained in NAFTA, Ethyl Corp., a US transnational, has sued Canada for $250 million in damages because Canada banned MMT, a fuel additive and dangerous neurotoxin. Although the Canadian ban was based on environmental grounds, Ethyl has argued that the ban constitutes an illegal expropriation of its assets, since it would have made money on MMT had it not been banned.

The expropriation rules could prevent governments from saving forests, limiting mining, or slowing urban sprawl. Under MAI, governments around the world could be prevented from passing any environmental regulations to avoid being sued.

MAI also sets international standards for environmental and labor regulations and prevents governments from passing any law which would help workers or the environment more than permitted under these standards. These rules are called standstill. The MAI also contains rollback rules which would require governments to gradually get rid of rules that provide more protection than the international standards.

The MAI would be binding on state and local governments and laws (in addition to national governments and laws), although only the Federal governments would agree to MAI. Therefore, cities like Berkeley and San Francisco would be prohibited from passing laws providing stricter labor and environmental protections than international standards. In addition, any local government trade sanctions, like bans against buying South African or Burmese goods, would be banned. Under MAI, San Francisco’s domestic partners law and Berkeley’s gasoline boycotts would be prohibited.

The MAI is designed to quicken the pace of economic globalization. MAI will make it easier for multinational corporations to ship investment capital and jobs anywhere in the world. This allows transnationals to shop for the country with the lowest wages, worst working conditions, and most lax environmental standards, while simultaneously punishing any government or people who try to protect living standards and the environment. The final result is to centralize ever more wealth and power in unaccountable corporations while people lose the ability to pass laws to protect themselves from the corporations.

Because MAI threatens the lives and health of the majority of the worlds peoples, the transnational corporations that back MAI and their government lackeys tried to keep MAI a secret for as long as possible. Its text was secret until a draft was leaked and put on the internet in January 1997. The MAI has gotten little media coverage and the Clinton Administration has kept its participation quiet.

World leaders choose to negotiate MAI through the OECD as part of a clever attempt to exclude most of the world’s governments from the process. The OECD is made up of the 29 richest industrialized nations. Once MAI is approved by the OECD countries, the OECD plans to present MAI to the rest of the world’s nations for approval with no changes permitted. Any country wanting access to the world’s capital markets will have no choice but to sign on. Resist the MAI

People around the world have begun to rise up against the process of economic globalization which, like colonialism before it, concentrates the world’s wealth in a few western hands. From India to Mexico to Indonesia to Brazil, millions in non-OECD countries now oppose the World Trade Organization and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and are ready to fight MAI.

And in many OECD countries opposition is gathering. Since the United States is one of the main countries pushing passage of the MAI, activists in the US have a pivotal role to play in defeating MAI.

The Clinton Administration, in an attempt to avoid organized opposition to MAI, is trying to pass fast track trade legislation that will strip Congress of the ability to amend MAI, forcing it to either approve or reject MAI if Clinton treats MAI as an agreement rather than a treaty. Fast track will also allow approval by a simple majority, rather than the two-thirds majority required under the Constitution for a treaty.

Aside from opposing and defeating fast track authority, the most important way to oppose MAI is to make sure everyone in the US knows what it would mean for their lives. The mainstream press, controlled by global corporations set to reap billions if MAI is finished, have kept news about MAI out of the news. Activists need to break the silence.

To get involved in the struggle against MAI, contact the International Forum on Globalization, 1555 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94109, 415-771-3394,