ON THE MULTILATERAL AGREEMENT ON INVESTMENT
28 APRIL 1998
At this point it is not known if
the MAI is dead at the OECD. This will only become clear in late Autumn
this year. If negotiations prove to be blocked in the OECD, then it will
in all likelihood resurface in another forum. It is clear that divisions
still exist between and within some but not all governments on the desirability
of both whether to have an MAI negotiated at the OECD, and if so the form
it should take. This came to a head at the Ministerial Council meeting
when the previously agreed draft Ministerial statement was opened up and
a debate took place not just on next steps for the negotiations, but on
many aspects of the Agreement itself with some governments using it as
an opportunity to stake out their positions on key issues.
In the event a consensus was reached and Ministers decided "on a period
of assessment and further consultation between the negotiating parties
and with interested parts of their societies, and invite(d) the Secretary-General
to assist this process". It was agreed to suspend formal meetings of the
Negotiating Group until October 1998. In line with this no new deadline
was set for the end of negotiations, but the negotiators were directed
to "continue their work with the aim of reaching a successful and timely
conclusion of the MAI".
Informal discussions will take place between capitals on whether the
key outstanding issues (deal-breakers) are solvable, for example, extraterritoriality
issues. At the same time meetings of expert or working groups will take
place in Paris on other outstanding issues such as labour and the environment,
national level exceptions, etc.. This was hinted at by Charlene Barshefsky
of the US in an OECD press conference when she suggested that governments
would seek "creative solutions" to some of the outstanding issues. Subject
to a consensus being found on the outstanding deal- breakers the negotiating
Group would re-start its work in October. If the process breaks down at
the OECD governments would possibly shift the negotiations to the WTO.
Many governments have expressed a desire to engage trade unions and
NGO's at the national level in an effort to gain their views as to what
would be needed to create an MAI that meets their concerns, and to search
out the "creative solutions". At the same time a public relations exercise
may begin led by the OECD using its new report "The Benefits of Trade and
Investment Liberalisation" to "explain" more widely the benefits of globalisation,
and the role of the MAI in this. Paradoxically, in the current climate
the public relations approach could have the opposite effect to that intended
and stir up more opposition to the MAI.
Lorens Schomeros (Germany) is widely thought to become the next Chair
of the Negotiating Group subject to domestic considerations.
Whatever happens to the MAI it is important that the trade union campaign
continues. Governments will still be discussing important issues such as
the binding labour and environment clauses. The forthcoming period of reflection,
as some have called it, and the expressed desire by Ministers to "consult"
with "interested parts of their societies" should rather be seen as an
opportunity to press more forcibly for an MAI that we would like to see.
It should also be remembered that domestic campaigns in some countries
may be such that their governments would be unable to sign up to an eventual
MAI in the short-term. However, the MAI could still go ahead without these
TUAC will be discussing with affiliates the next steps in the trade
union campaign on the MAI, but ahead of this we would urge affiliates to
engage where possible in the domestic debates on the MAI, and to seek alliances
with groups that seek an MAI that balances the rights of investors with
On a broader level, TUAC will be exploring with the OECD how to establish
an informed open debate on the broader issue of governance of the international
finance and market system.