Secret Trade Deal
"NAFTA on Steroids?"
"A dagger through the heart of democracy!"
Think we're kidding? Exaggerating?
Business Week calls the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) "The most explosive trade deal you've never heard of."
A treaty, negotiated in secret by government officials and corporate executives, would give transnational corporations sweeping new rights and overrule decision-making by democratically-elected legislatures.
Meet the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI).
MAI is more sweeping in scope than NAFTA or GATT. Business Week calls it "The most explosive trade deal youve never heard of."
Its been called "NAFTA on steroids," a coup in slow motion, "a dangerous and audacious power grab," and "a dagger through the heart of democracy."
Big business, of course, has a different view. "When concluded, the MAI will become the next pillar in the global system of trade, finance, and investment," says the United States Council for International Business.
"We are writing the constitution of a single global economy," says Renato Ruggerio, director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The problem is, this "constitution" would override the U.S. Constitution, and that of every other signatory nation. MAI would nullify the checks and balances of our constitutional system and overawe our Bill of Rights.
And the new constitution is a creation of, by and for transnational corporations.
"Behind the scenes, big business is pushing for the MAI and helping to draft its language," says journalist David Moberg. The U.S. Council for International Business, representing more than 300 transnational corporations and global law firms (and including foreign-based corporations, like Matsushita and Nestle), is prime force behind the treaty.
The goal of MAI, simply put, is to finish what GATT (the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) started. MAI would deregulate investment in manufacturing and services, currency trading, trade in stocks and bonds, and ownership of land and natural resources world-wide. But while the rules would come off big business and banks, new rules would be slapped on government at every level.
MAI is designed to make it easier for individual and corporate investors to move assets, either money or production, across international borders. Its a NAFTA of global proportions.
MAI would force signatory nations to:
The rights granted by this treaty go only to foreign investors and corporations. The responsibilities (and potential burden and liabilities) affect only the people, through their elected governments.
MAI would tie the hands of any government at any level to choose their own social and economic policies.
A leading environmentalist worries, "Were concerned about [MAIs] deregulation aspects on the environment... and theres no balance in it. Corporate rights are not balanced with corporate responsibility."
And there wont be any balance, if the prime movers of the treaty have their way. "We will oppose any and all measures to create or even imply binding obligations for governments or business related to the environment or labor," says the United States Council for International Business (USCIB).
Not even voluntary guidelines are acceptable to the would-be dictators of the global economy. "We will resist efforts to impose new voluntary guidelines or codes of conduct on the operations of multinational corporations," the USCIB says.
Negotiations began in May 1995 under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECED), the elite club of the 29 wealthiest nations. The Clinton Administration, a strong supporter of the treaty, is represented by the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. State and Treasury Departments. The USCIB helps shape U.S. negotiating positions and has direct access to the chairman of the OECDs MAI negotiating group.
The talks have been kept tightly under wraps. U.S. government officials denied the existence of MAI until late January 1997 when citizens groups obtained a copy. To the chagrin of the State Dept., the text is now posted in full on Public Citizenss website at www.citizen.org.
MAIs original completion date was May 1997, when only a very few legislators in any of the countries involved in the talks knew anything about the treaty. Most members of Congress had no idea of MAIs existence and many may not yet fully understand its terms.
Unions and citizens organizations pulled off an important victory last fall by blocking renewal of fast track authority, the special presidential power to side-step Congress in trade negotiations. Awareness of the effects of NAFTA fueled public opposition to fast track. The understanding that MAI is a vast, global NAFTA that threatens national sovereignty could weld together a coalition powerful enough to stop this assault on our living standards and rights as citizens.
"The more people learn about this, the more scared they get," says Alan Tonelson, a research fellow at the U.S. Business and Industrial Council, an organization of small and medium-sized businesses. "And they should, because it is a dangerous and audacious power grab that must be stopped."
(This article is based, in part, on material prepared by Public Citizens Global Trade Watch and the International Forum on Globalization.)
MAI Would Keep