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 treaty.

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:

Or Preamble Collaborative, 1737 21st Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20009, phone 202-265-3263, fax 202-265-3647, email or web site:

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