The Corporate Greed Agreement
By George, it may turn out that the Militia fellows have been right all
along--they just have their guns pointed in the wrong direction. It seems
there may well be a new world order on the way, but they were looking for
it in all the wrong places. They would have us on the alert for black helicopters,
Russian divisions in Arkansas to be joined by the dusky hordes of United
Nations in the bloody battle to shove two hundred and sixty million patriotic
American heads into blue helmets (small size for granny, please).
Not quite. It seems that while we were busying ourselves with these seemingly
important matters, plus murder trials, earning a living and the possibly
unique aspects of the President's Privates, the white guys in the boardrooms
were running away with, not just this country but all of the member countries
of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (the OECD),
which is the big brother to the European Union (the EU).
The OECD is a research establishment, in essence, providing the world's
richest nations with information about economic trends. Yet, without debate
or consultation, unannounced, without the knowledge or participation of
members of Congress or the European national parliaments, it has been secretly
negotiating a treaty (the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, or MAI,
formerly the M.I.A.) that will reduce our elected representatives to filing
clerks. The MAI proposes to grant transnational investors the unrestricted
right to buy, sell or move businesses--and other assets--wherever and whenever
they wish. To achieve this goal, the MAI would ban a wide range of regulatory
laws now in effect around the globe. It would also do away with future efforts
to hold transnational corporations and their investors accountable to the
public. The United States and the countries of the European Union, who originally
proposed the agreement, expect the remaining members of the OECD to join
them, at which point they will then pressure the developing countries to
sign on--and that's just about everybody--and not a black helicopter or
a blue helmet in sight.
Just what the negotiators had in mind was clearly expressed by Renato R.
Rugiero, Director General of the World Trade Organization, when he stated
that "We are writing the CONSTITUTION (!?) of a single global economic
system." Now the huge problem is that, if the MAI is a "constitution",
its bill of rights is for investors only. The agreement does absolutely
nothing to protect the United States or its environment, workers or consumers,
or to protect small businesses from any anti-competitive practices by transnationals.
It would give expansive new powers to corporations and impose on nations
new obligations toward the transnationals. It would abolish the power of
citizens and governments to control the entry, behavior and operations of
these companies. This is an especially difficult proposition for developing
countries who will have to forego dreams of building and protecting a domestic
capacity. The power of local or national governments, Denver for instance,
to screen the worst of these corporations or to attach performance requirements
to protect local people and their environment would be foreclosed by this
The treaty was due to appear as we go to press and is scheduled for a "Fast
Track" vote in the Senate in the Fall. "Fast Track" is the
horrendous process whereby all debate is limited to 20 hours and absolutely
no amendments are allowed. After debate, the treaty is voted up or down.
This process was used to ram NAFTA through the Senate. Can we imagine the
pressure on the senators from their corporate friends, old and new, around
the world? Meanwhile, the possessor of the peculiar presidential privates
and his accomplices in the administration are backing MAI for the same reasons
that they supported NAFTA--they think increased international trade is just
nifty and anything that's good for corporations is good for the nation.
Shades of Calvin Coolidge! Can you imagine George Bush trying to pull off
this scam? He would have been scalded, and rightly so.
The serious problem lies in the fact that, although "Fast Track"
is looming large, few Americans, who probably have the most to lose, have
ever heard of the agreement. Government officials are treating MAI information
like nuclear secrets and the media, both print and radio/tv seem to be totally
unaware. However, lest we despair, some hope is left.
The International Forum on Globalization, a group of eminent economists
and leading social and environmentalists, met recently in San Francisco
to review what was known of the treaty provisions. They referred to the
agreement as "A TREATY FOR CORPORATE RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES" and
called upon nations of the world to reject the proposed treaty and asked
concerned citizens to spread the word about its harmful potential impact
on their communities. The Council of Canadians, with 90,000 members, has
been joined by several large, all-Canada organizations in an effort to shed
as much light as possible, and make as much noise as they can (their media
is also silent on this subject).
The closest help at hand as I write this comes from Public Citizen's Trade
Watch, located in Washington and available on the Internet. They refer to
MAI as the "stealth treaty" and are conducting a Campaign of Inquiry
in an attempt to bring the negotiations out of the dark, where governments
seem intent on hiding them, and to generate some serious public debate.
Here's how: Drop a line to your local newspaper, your congressperson and/or
the State Attorney General, each asking such questions as: What is MAI?
How will it affect state sovereignty? What about environmental standards?
How come no one knows about it? That should get some discussion going. And,
don't forget to call those guys on the radio who are so full of opinions.
Just get the discussion going any way you can. Public Citizen hopes that
if we can shed enough public sunshine on this radical piece of corporate
aggrandizement, it might just self destruct.
1365 Columbine #105
Denver, CO 80206
For more information contact Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, 215 Pennsylvania
Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20003, phone 202/546-4996 or Web site: www.citizen.org/gtw/mai.html
Or Preamble Collaborative, 1737 21st Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20009,
phone 202-265-3263, fax 202-265-3647, email firstname.lastname@example.org or web site:
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