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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Multilateral Agreement on Investment

A new multinational bulldozer against democratic practices and benefits for regular human beings is being built quietly in closed-door negotiations by representatives of 29 wealthiest nations under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Sometime later this year, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) will be proposed by OECD to their respective governments for enactment.

The big bankers and financiers, who drafted and are pushing for an international investment treaty that would over-ride the right of your local, state and national government to protect your health, safety, environment and communities by conditioning certain types of investments, are smiling.

These bankers and financiers are confident. After all didn’t the corporate traders get GATT approved by 125 nations, including the United States? What was done for trade and patents can be done for international investment, they argue.

Not if the American people find out about the consequences of the MAI to their community, neighborhood and household. For the MAI has been described as GATT on steroids — a virulent and veritable global corporate coup d’etat attempt on legislatures and their citizenry. In fact, some MAI backers want Clinton to adopt it without going to Congress, as an executive agreement, but this is unlikely to happen even in a corporate-dominated federal bureaucracy.

The push for the MAI is based on the assertion that national

impositions on the free flow of international capital between countries must be removed to enhance economic growth. The mandate behind the MAI, based on a 180 page draft that was leaked to the public in April, is ‘investment uber alles’

Here is how the proposed MAI draft, if passed by Congress, would effect our country:

1. The U.S. government’s restricting investment in some countries that violate their peoples’ human rights would be illegal, except if those violations endangered national security. MAI version. Again, investment uber alles.

2. A broad number of existing U.S. laws to regulate investors toward broad national purposes against fraud, speculation and discrimination could be challenged before secret MAI tribunals by corporations themselves as being violative of the MAI terms. These would include the successful community reinvestment laws (to get mortgage money into lower income areas), programs to benefit small business, some stock market safeguards, state taxation of global corporations, expropriation (with compensation) of property for environmental safety, restrictions on foreign ownership of real estate and key industries, direct controls on the movement of capital especially during harsh economic times and other legal standards protecting labor and consumers.

The chilling effect by an entrenched MAI on future humane and just laws would be even more far-reaching. Our country could not be first in advancing economic justice; it would be under MAI pressure downward.

The business press reports regularly that international investors are not angels, that more than a few times they are unethical, illegal or institutionally harmful to the well-being of the weak, the unorganized, the preoccupied or the trusting. Yet the MAI somehow neglects a set of obligations or accountability for investor conduct vis-à-vis workers and consumers or for the prohibition of anti-competitive business practices.

Notice this bias: the MAI gives corporations the legal right to sue our government to enforce the MAI but workers, taxpayers and consumers have no such comparable legal standing. This provision can be called corporations uber alles!

Massachusetts has passed a law forbidding its state government from buying from companies doing business in the dictatorship of Burma. Arizona state law restricts the sale of public lands to state residents or businesses. Many western states have reclamation standards for surface-mined land that exceed minimum federal standards.

All these laws could be challenged as violating the MAI, should Clinton and Congress enact it, because they are discriminatory to foreign investors. The U.S. Treasury (meaning you the taxpayer) could pay some hefty economic fines should the secret tribunals rule against the U.S.

Even if our laws do not prefer domestic to foreign investors, the MAI draft includes a broad ban on “performance requirements” such as living wage laws, specific job-creation requirements for government-subsidized firms, and incentives for environmentally responsible investments.

Now reasonable people can differ on all these conditions or standards for various investments. But to allow an international autocratic governing regime, called the multilateral agreement on investments, to impose the supremacy of money over a wide range of human values, would be to outdo the growing folly of GATT in disintegrating our democracy and self-determination from the community to Washington, D.C. (For more free information on the MAI, contact Chantell Taylor at 202-546-4996, ext. 303, [email protected])