I have read with interest your coverage of international trade policy, but have recently heard about a pretty radical treaty which you have not yet covered - the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). According to a magazine article I read, this treaty has been under negotiation since 1995 and was supposed to be finished by May this year, yet I've never seen anything about it in your paper and would like to know more.
Evidently, the MAI requires governments to give corporations a whole list of new rights, for instance requiring otherwise sovereign nations to give foreign investors access to all economic domestic sectors, including communication and defence industries. Also, governments could not set any conditions on the investment, like joint ventures or requiring a certain amount of local personnel to be hired.
The one aspect of this proposed new treaty that especially shocks me lets private corporations and investors sue governments directly if they suspect they are not getting all the benefits of the treaty. I have never heard of such a thing before.
It seems that the fundamental powers of our local and national governments to shape our own economic futures could be hurt by the MAI. Do we really want to make it easier for locally owned or managed businesses to be replaced by some foreign company who doesn't have any stake in creating jobs here, funding our schools or keeping our drinking water clean?
It alarms me if such a major international economic treaty could reach virtual completion without the knowledge, cooperation and scrutiny of citizens or elected representatives. I hope The Australian* will quickly research and cover this story.
* Note: Replace, if necessary, the newspaper The Australian* with the name of another appropriate newspaper in the second last line.
Dear MP/Senator/MHR _________,
I am writing to inquire about the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), a treaty currently being negotiated at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The MAI seems designed to accelerate economic globalisation by bolstering the rights of corporations and investors and limiting the ability of Australian parliaments to set rules about investment in Australia. From what I've read about it, the MAI seems like a global NAFTA or a World Trade Organisation for investment rules.
The most alarming aspect, from my perspective, is a proposal to give corporations and investors the legal tools, or "standing", to directly sue governments if the companies believe they haven't been given everything a country owes them under the treaty. I have never heard of any other treaty that gives private corporations or investors this kind of power. Do you know of anything like this? Also, who would pay the fines if a private corporation wins against an Australian government? Could our tax dollars go to paying these fines?
I'm also concerned that some of the existing laws that we now use to regulate investments - like environmental standards, community reinvestment programs, living wage laws and performance requirements - could be hurt by the MAI. It seems that the fundamental powers of our state and local governments to shape our own economic futures could be threatened if that were the case.
Do we want to make it even easier for locally-owned or managed businesses to be replaced by foreign companies who don't have any stake in creating jobs here, funding our schools, developing our communities or keeping our drinking water clean?
Apparently the MAI has been under negotiation at the OECD since May 1995. The treaty was supposed to be completed this May, but has now been delayed a few months. It is disturbing if negotiations of such a powerful international economic treaty could have reached an advanced stage without the scrutiny and cooperation of citizens, elected officials, and non-governmental organisations.
Have you had any input in the MAI negotiations? Is Federal Parliament being consulted? If not, why not? No one I've called seems to know anything about this but it sounds as if a significant amount of Australian laws could be affected. Who supports the MAI?
Both the secretive process of negotiations and what sounds like a really unbalanced result worry me. Please write back with answers to these questions and any additional information on the MAI, including your personal positions.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." -- Margaret Mead.Here are some MAI sites I have found useful:
Other useful sites with lots of info are:
http://www.alliance.org.nz/releases/mai.htm (NZ Aliance Party)
The full text of the MAI (for reference purposes) can be found at: http://www.flora.org/mai-not/
"Anti-MAI" Web Sites
Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch MAI web page. A wealth of information on the subject including the complete MAI text. [ Since superseded; for link see our: Multinationals' News and Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) at http://www.multiline.com.au/~georgist/mainews.htm ]
The Island Centre for Community initiatives and the National Centre for Sustainability in Canada. Everything from articles to a massive links page to pros and cons to updates.
Friends of the Earth - US. Information on MAI and the potential environmental impacts.
The Canadian Polaris Institute. A collection of high-quality articles on the MAI such as Tony Clarke's MAI-DAY article and information on the Ethyl case.
The Ontario Public Interest Research Group. Lots of links to other good sites, well organized and good information.
New York Solidarity. This site has a great deal of basic info on the MAI. Very nice for those just learning about the agreement.
"Pro-MAI" Web Sites
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's site created to promote the MAI. Lots of information.
The United States Trade Representative's office. Official negotiators of the MAI for the U.S. government.
The United States Department of State. Official negotiators of the MAI for the U.S. government.
A letter written by the United States Council on International Business defending the MAI. Deals primarily with environmental issues.
The Preamble Center for Public Policy in Washington, D.C. In-depth analysis, both pro and con, of the Agreement. Numerous original research papers on the MAI covering topics from the impact on jobs and the economy to the impact on women world-wide. A 20-page bibliography of MAI materials from around the world.
Preamble Center for Public Policy
Name: Antonia Juhasz, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, 1737 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009, U.S.A., (202) 265-3263 fax (202) 265-3647, http://www.rtk.net/preamble _______________THE END_______________
THE GEORGIST EDUCATION
ASSOCIATION, INC., at: http://www.multiline.com.au/~georgist
10 Broome Street, South Perth, Western Australia, 6151; Telephone (08) 9367 5386 (international +61 8 9367 5386); President's Mobile Telephone 018 054 319. E-mail: email@example.com
RECOMMENDED WEBSITES as at 14 February 1998 are:
MAI-NOT at http://mai.flora.org/
MAI Draft Text of 06 Oct 97 at: http://mai.flora.org/mai-info/9710.htm
Corporate Europe University (Holland) at: http://www.xs4all.nl/~ceo/mai
Australian MAI Community Awareness Site at: http://www.avid.net.au/stopmai
LINKS TRANSFERRED: The other WWW links etc. from this Webpage have been transferred to: MAI News -- Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) at: http://www.multiline.com.au/~georgist/mainews.htm
Another International Treaty on a different subject: SHOULD HEALTH FOOD SHOPS BE ALLOWED TO SELL VITAMIN AND MINERAL FOOD SUPPLEMENTS? See: International Advocates for Health Freedom at: http://www.pnc.com.au/~cafmr/hammell/