MAI - Multinational Mayhem
(from SCHNews Issue 187, Friday 16th October 1998
"In 1985, the 200 largest multinational corporations alone had combined sales of $3 trillion, equivalent to one third of total global output, and also controlled over two thirds of world trade." - Michael Rowbotham, 'The Grip of Death'
MAI THE FORCE BE WITH YOU
"The government has no business in business and I would be the last person in the world to ever try to involve the government in a business of mine.But the business of government is business."
- Joseph Heller, 'Catch 22'
On Tuesday Oct 27th 1998, Paris sees the next round of talks to try and put in place the global trade monster that will be the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (see SchNEWS 141)
The MAI is being written by the world's 29 richest nations and, if signed will transcend all national laws, rolling back all legal barriers to foreign investment everwhere. Under the MAI, public health and environmental protection, the formation of unions, health and safety at work legislation, state subsidy and protection for national and local industries are all considered as obstructions to investment.
Under the MAI, any nation that puts up trade'barriers' will be liable for a flurry of multimillion dollar law suits.We only need to look at the North American Free Trade Agreemant(NAFTA)to see what's in store if the MAI gets the green light.
"The MAI is a multinational's wet dream"
NAFTA came into force in 1994. Its signatories are the United States, Canada and Mexico.Three legal claims issued by US companies claiming violation of NAFTA rules by federal governments provide a chilling preview of a world with MAI.
In July the Government of Canada settled a NAFTA claim brought by the Ethyl Corporation of America, the company which gave the world leaded petrol The Canadians had imposed a ban on a fuel additive called MMT, which was manufactured solely by Ethyl. The toxin contains manganese, which causes nerve deterioration leading to attention deficit and memory loss in children. Even car manufacturers discourage its use because it damages cars!
Never mind all that, thanks to NAFTA, the Ethyl Corporation said it had been mistreated, so a three member arbitration panel of law professors and trade lawyers, who rule NAFTA disputes were asked to look at Ethyl's claim. The panel's 'discussions' are held behind closed doors, its decision is final and not subject to appeal, and its records are not disclosed.
The Canadian government, realising its chances of winning were nil, decided to settle with Ethyl for $13 million, allowed them to resume sales and announced that "MMT poses no health risk."
Next came S.D.Myers of Ohio, a PCB treatment company who want an undisclosed sum from Canada for profits lost when the country operated a fifteen-month ban on the export of PCB contaminated waste. The ban came into force in 1995, but was revoked in early 1997 when ministers bowed to pressure from pollution industry lobbyists.
PCB's are organo-chlorines, (your novel food fathers Monsanto cornered the market in producing them for industry and is resposible for releasing 1.2 million tonnes of them worldwide since production began in 1929). The UN Environment Programme describes the 209 possible PCB's as 'persistent organic pollutants' to be phased out. They take years to bio-degrade because they are not soluble in water, but they are soluble in fat so they concentrate at the top of the food chain.
Effects of PCB's in the body include damage to the immune and nervous systems, birth defects, reproductive disorders and cancer.How could anyone possibly complain about that! Well Myer can and did and have resorted to NAFTA, saying their right to free trade has been denied.
Meanwhile, over in Mexico the Metalclad Corporation of Canada. has a case before a NAFTA tribunal in which it claims the State of San Luis Potosi 'effectively expropriated' its future expected profits from a toxic waste facility which the state closed down.
Metalclad had taken over a waste disposal plant, which had a history of contaminating the local water supply, with the obligation that it clean it up. However after an environmental impact assessment, the State Governor declared the site part of an ecological zone and closed the dump.Not to worry, the new laws of multinational trade says the polluter must be paid, and the Federal Government of Mexico is now facing a $90 million bill.
The text and scope of NAFTA acted as a model for the MAI, but the MAI goes even further to empower megalomaniac profiteers.Thought we'd just warn you...
On Monday the World Trade Organisation (whose President once infamously said ' we are writing the constitution of the single global economy') ruled that the US government's ban on shrimps caught in nets without turtle excluder devices breached international fair trade rules. Some 150,000 sea turtles, an endangered species, drown each year in shrimping nets so in 1996 America banned the import of shrimps that were caught without the excluders. Tough shit turtles,the World Trade Organisation said it was against free trade.
"What then is a free market? The idea of half a dozen grocers in the high street freely competing with each other is one thing, but the spectacle of huge multinational companies,some of which now command resources larger than the budgets of many countries, impels one to ask 'where in trading terms is the freedom?'. Such groupings express not freedom but licence, licence to exploit, manipulate and destroy any such free instituions that stand in its way." - John Papworth 'Fourth World Review'
Public Citizen Global Trade Watch http://www.citizen.org/, http://www.tradewatch.org/ World Development Movement, P O Box 100, London, SE1 7RT 0171 737 6215 http://www.wdm.org.uk/