Until exposed by groups in Canada and the US, the now aborted Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) ofthe Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had been negotiated behind closed doors since 1995. Groups such as theCouncil of Canadians and Alternatives launched information and protest campaigns in Canada in January 1998, part of a formidable international citizen's opposition movement (of which Opération SalAMI was part). France officially pulled out of the negotiations in October 1998 and Germany, England and Canada withdrews oon afterwards. The OECD's MAI project was officially abandoned in December 1998.
The MAI: a rude wake-up call

News of the content of the MAI draft paper shocked many of us (see, among others, the article by Lori Wallach in Le Monde diplomatique). The broad outlines of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment included the following points:

- The MAI would have prohibited the application of any conditions to investment on the basis of a corporation's or country's past or present practices in labour, environment or human rights.

- The MAI would have prevented governments from promoting regional economic development. How? By giving large foreign-based corporations unfettered access to national markets and preferential treatment. The MAI would have automatically granted 'national treatment' (equal to their domestic counterparts) and 'most-favoured-nation status' (previously reserved for privileged partners) to all foreign investors.

- The MAI would purely and simply have banned 'conditions' on investment (the technical term is 'performance requirements'), such as the obligation for foreign-based firms to reinvest in the host country or employ local residents, respect national-content quotas or use recycled materials in the production process.

- The MAI would have prevented the regulation of speculative capital, whose volatility undermines goverment social policies and which, among other ills, was at the heart of the Asian economic crisis.

- Finally, the MAI was have provided for an international tribunal for 'crimes against investors' where foreign-based corporations could sue national governments and obtain financial compensation if the government's policies compromised their prospective profits.

Moreover, the MAI was to include a 2-year 'lock-in' mechanism preventing governments from reversing any of the measures for an entire generation. Finally, the accord provided for the gradual elimination of all exemptions and reservations a country may have managed to include in the treaty.

The true face of globalization

The MAI was a wake-up call for many people. Several compared the MAI to Dracula, in that it 'could not survive the sunlight of scrutiny,' as Wallach stated. The corporate elite was bared as bloodthirsty and hungry for the resources of the world's peoples and the true face of globalization was revealed. The plan to establish a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) or the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) agreement seems to indicate that the corporate elite is now multiplying fora where it tries to intoduce MAI clones. The most ominous attempts to reincarnate the MAI is no doubt the pilot projects of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The victory of organized grass-roots opposition to the MAI has marked the beginning of a new globalized mobilization. Now it is the world economic war we have to tackle. There are many battles still ahead. Fortunately we now have some tools that allow us to hope for victory.

Philippe Duhamel