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MAI (fwd)/investment

for those of you interested in multinational global investment, and its
limits, if there are any....

dawn star

> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Date: Thu, 17 Apr 1997 12:06:38 -0700 (PDT)
> From: D Shniad <shniad@xxxxxx>
> To: Communications Workers Union <cwu@xxxxxxxxxx>
> Cc: Latin America Connections <marcos@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>,
>     Arthur Cordell <acordell@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>,
>     Sherry Crowther <sherryc@xxxxxxxxxxxx>,
>     Carl Cuneo <cuneo@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> Subject: MAI
> The following article was printed in The Guardian (UK) on 15 April 1997.
> The author, George Monbiot, is one of the UK's leading environmental
> activists.
>         by George Monbiot
> For the past four weeks  - arguably the past five years - almost every
> mainstream journalist in Britain has been recruited to the single task of
> speculating about the election. Entire news networks have been reorganised
> to cover this event and no other: ITN has destroyed even its canteen in
> order to create more space.
> This is, we are told, an unprecedented exercise in democracy, a political
> dissection so thorough that no one need enter a polling booth unaware of
> how his or her vote will affect our political future. But while our
> stargazers squabble over the portents, none of them seems to have noticed
> the meteor heading our way.
> For the real future of Britain is being discussed not here, but elsewhere,
> and in the utmost secrecy. The columnists who have so shrilly defended the
> sovereignty of Parliament from the technocrats in Brussels have so far
> failed to devote a single column inch to the shady deliberations of the
> EU's bigger brother.
> The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development is, in
> essence, a research establishment, providing the world's richest nations with
> information about economic trends. Yet, without debate or consultation,
> unannounced, unguided even by national parliaments, it has been
> negotiating a treaty which will reduce our representatives to filing clerks.
> The Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) intends to outlaw all
> restrictions and controls that national governments might wish to impose on
> foreign investment. "We are," one of its leading negotiators boasts,
> "writing the constitution of a single global economy". The identity of the
> next government will be immaterial if this treaty goes ahead.
> Investment, ownership, consumer protection and environmental legislation
> will be wrenched out of our hands. If the OECD gets its way, the British
> government will never again be permitted to restrain the rapacity of the
> private sector. Multinational corporations will be exempt from minimum-
> wage legislation, or from requirements to draw the workforce from the
> neighbourhood or even the nation. Government attempts to prevent sudden
> capital flight to avert a balance-of-payments crisis will be forbidden.
> Governments will not be permitted to address foreign ownership of the
> media; to hold controlling shares in private utilities, or to insist that
> foreign companies whose relocation they have sponsored remain in the
> country.
> The MAI, in conjunction with the World Trade Organization, could forbid
> nations from discriminating against, or even distinguishing between,
> sustainably and unsustainably harvested timber, or organic and
> conventionally toxic food. It could overrule both the Montreal Protocol -
> which aims to protect the ozone layer - and the Climate Change
> Convention.
> If corporations find a regulation objectionable, they will be entitled to
> sue a government or local authority at an international tribunal. There
> will be no right of appeal. But governments, as the Ecologist magazine
> points out, will have no reciprocal right to sue a corporation on the
> public's behalf. This is a charter for multinationals. It accords them
> absolute rights without a shred of responsibility.
> If the results are likely to be devestating here, they will be catastrophic
> in much of the developing world which, while barred from the negotiations,
> will be "invited" to sign the treaty. Already, OECD negotiators are talking
> darkly about membership of the MAI being seen as a "certificate of good
> conduct", without which a nation could expect no substantial foreign
> investment. Nations which sign up will find themselves facing punitive
> sanctions if they refuse to surrender their resources as foreign companies
> demand.
> So who are these faceless bureaucrats, signing away our sovereignty?
> Campaigners who have secured an audience with MAI negotiators report
> that the fiercest proponent of the treaty is Britain's Department of Trade and
> Industry. Without consulting Parliament, while deliberately misleading both
> the Department of the Environment and the ODA about the content of the
> talks, the DTI has been secretly surrendering our legislative independence.
> The game it is playing is filthy. Britain cannot, the DTI tells us, afford
> special measures to protect its workers, consumers or environment because
> other countries, with lower standards, would out-compete us. Yet the same
> department is secretly insisting that such standards be lowered worldwide.
> With an eye to the future it is engineering, the DTI already behaves as if
> it is mandated not by Parliament but by corporations.
> The negotiators tried to rush the agreement through by May, but the
> discussions have, for the moment, stalled. We now have the merest
> twinkling of an opportunity to try to stop this monstrous treaty. If we fail,
> we may as well forget about the election. When the constitution of the
> global economy has been agreed, then the task of every parliament on earth
> will be reduced to mere ratification.