|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
|The MAI: a rude wake-up
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
- 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
- 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
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.