(en) Press release RE: MAI

Lyn Gerry (redlyn@loop.com)
Sun, 2 Nov 1997 12:53:46 +0000

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------- Forwarded Message Follows ------- Date: Sat, 1 Nov 1997 23:16:27 -0800 (PST) From: MichaelP <papadop@peak.org> Subject: Press release RE: MAI

Press Release by International Non-governmental Organisations

Global Investment Treaty Challenged by International Coalition of NGOs

Embargoed until: Monday, 27 October, 1997

Forty international environment, development and consumer organisations (1) are today meeting with official delegations from OECD countries to express their outrage over the current status of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI).

The coalition argues that the current draft MAI does not deserve to gain democratic approval in any country, and many will actively campaign against its adoption unless radical changes are made.

The MAI is a new international investment treaty due to be signed in May 1998 which aims to protect and liberalise international investment. Though negotiated solely between OECD countries it will be open to all to join, and five non-OECD countries are already planning to sign in 1998 (2).

If well regulated, foreign investment can make an important contribution to growth and poverty reduction. However, the coalition of non-governmental organisations consider the draft MAI to be very unbalanced, elevating the rights of investors far above those of local communities, citizens, workers and the environment. Without reform the MAI threatens to severely undermine even the limited progress made towards sustainable development since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.

The MAI has been negotiated away from Parliaments and civil society in OECD countries, and with no formal input from governments in non-OECD countries which will be asked to join. As a first step towards reform the coalition will be calling today for immediate changes to the MAI process:

The MAI negotiation process must extended past May 1998 to allow adequate consideration of public concerns and true democratic oversight, both inside and outside the OECD.

The Coalition is proposing that the MAI is amended in the following vital areas:

The MAI must respect the rights of developing countries to determine their own development policy and retain mechanisms to achieve national priorities. The level of liberalisation contained in the MAI is inappropriate for many developing countries, but they fear being marginalised from foreign investment if they do not join.

The MAI must respect existing international and national laws. The MAI conflicts with many existing progressive laws, especially those governing natural resource use, environmental protection, workers rights and local social programmes.

Investor rights must be balanced by investor responsibilities. The MAI gives investors new rights and protections, including the ability to directly sue governments, but places no responsibilities on them to operate to national or international standards. Investor-state disputes are inherently undemocratic, and if allowed at all should be subject to tight eligibility criteria aimed to discourage actions against the broader public interest.

Citizens's rights should balance investors rights. Citizens, workers, indigenous peoples and civil society at large cannot hold investors accountable for their actions under the MAI, and are excluded from the operation of the MAI dispute system. The MAI must enhance citizens' rights to ensure investor responsibility, and include adequate systems of international redress.

International regulation must balance international liberalisation. International investment is under regulated, especially in the areas of competition policy, corruption and tax avoidance. The MAI must include parallel regulation to ensure economic efficiency and protect the democratic rights of governments.

The MAI is the latest major component of economic globalization. If OECD policy statements are to have any meaning, provisions supporting environmental protection, social development, workers rights, indigenous rights and consumer welfare must be fully integrated inside the MAI, and given the same legal weight as those promoting investor protection and economic liberalisation.

A spokesperson for the coalition said:

"Our presence today should put the OECD on notice. NGOs and citizens' groups will be scrutinising every move in the negotiation of this agreement. The MAI needs radical reform before it is acceptable. The OECD countries have made positive statements in the past promising to fully integrate their economic, social and environmental policies (3). The passage of an unreformed MAI would show these statements to have simply been empty rhetoric. We will be looking for meaningful responses to the proposals we present today. If not, the OECD should prepare itself for a vigorous challenge to the MAI from many quarters."



List of participating NATIONAL organisations: UBINIG, BANGLADESH; Sierra Club, CANADA; Counsel of Canadians, CANADA; Global Compliance Research Project, CANADA; Canadian Environmental Law Association, CANADA; Asociacion Cultural Sejekto de Costa Rica, COSTA RICA; Caribbean Center for Economical Research, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; KEPA, FINLAND; ECOROPA, FRANCE; Agir Ici, FRANCE; HELIO, FRANCE; Forum Environment and Development, GERMANY; NABU, GERMANY; WEED, GERMANY; CEE Bankwatch Network, HUNGARY; Third World Network, HONG KONG; CUTS, INDIA; Peoples Forum 2001, JAPAN; Eco News Africa, KENYA; Equipo Pueblo, MEXICO; ANGOA, NEW ZEALAND; ANPED/ ToBI, NETHERLANDS; IUCN-NL, NETHERLANDS; Both Ends, NETHERLANDS; SOMO, NETHERLANDS; ISGN, NORWAY; CEECAP, POLAND; Polish Ecological Club, POLAND; FORUM Sweden, SWEDEN; Ecological Rights Association, SWITZERLAND; Lutheran World Federation, SWITZERLAND; Quaker UN Office, SWITZERLAND; Swiss Coalition for Development Organizations, SWITZERLAND; Focus on the Global South, THAILAND; Friends of Earth EWNI, UK; WWF-UK, UK; World Development Movement, UK; Oxfam -UK, UK; CIIR, UK; Instituto del Tercer Mundo/TWN, URUGUAY; National Wildlife Federation, USA; CIEL, USA; Sustainable Alternatives to the Global Economy, USA; Friends of the Earth, USA; Public Citizen, USA; Preamble Collaborative, USA; Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, USA; World Council of Churches, USA; 50 Years is Enough, USA;

Participating INTERNATIONAL organisations: Consumers International; World Wide Fund for Nature International; Friends of the Earth International; Greenpeace; Playfair Europe, EU.

2. Expected non-OECD signatories are Brazil, Hong Kong, Singapore, Slovakia and Chile.

3. OECD Ministerial Communique April 1997

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