Campaign situation
in 1999

INDEX What is Stop MAI?
Hasn't MAI been terminated?
The WTO 'New Round'
Moves to pre-empt objections
Role of WTO
Communication of Information
Submissions to DFAT
Consultation initiatedby DFAT
Alternative directions not considered
Campaign timeframe
Internet resources

What is Stop MAI?

Stop MAI is the name of the Australian coalition which co-ordinated criticism and opposition to the Mulilateral Agreement on Investment in Australian Government and OECD fora in 1998. More details can be found on the website at http://www.avid.net.au/stopmai [This URL has expired but will be restored]

With the goal of raising public awareness of the issue, Stop MAI (WA) conducted a series of public meetings in the Perth area, one of which is documented at http://members.iinet.net.au/~jenks/stopmai03.html

Stop MAI (WA) in October 1998 co-ordinated an Australia-wide sign-on letter to the OECD and Prime Minister Howard, which is recorded at http://www.flora.org/mai/forum/7436 An abbreviated version was advertised in The Australian on 11 November, 1998.

The coalition is informally affiliated with the world-wide movement against the MAI and its clones, coordinated by leadership in the USA and Canada, where the MAI Negotiating Draft was first leaked, and informed by major organisations including Friends of the Earth and Third World Network.

Haven't the MAI negotiations been terminated?

The OECD's Paris talks on the MAI failed in October 1998. However, there is strong support by the European Union, Japan, the United Kingdom and the US for resumption of the liberalisation objectives in the World Trade Organisation. (See next.)

The WTO 'New Round'

A European Commission memo on ' WTO New Round: Trade and Investment', dated 15/12/98, was leaked. Not long after, a sanitised version of the document, headed 'International rules for investment and the WTO' was issued for strategic consultation with non-government organisations. Comparison of differences in the two documents has proved very revealing of the European agenda.

In the leaked document the Commission even explains the seemingly quite substantial influence of business interest groups on its paper: "The European Business community has made clear its position in favour of multilateral rules on investment both through its representative bodies (UNICE, ERT) and through informal direct contacts with investment decision-makers."

The two documents, with highlighted differences and analytical notes, are at http://www.xs4all.nl/~ceo/mai/eu/

There is also a very strong critical article on "Millennium Round" moves by the US and European Union written by French journalist Christian de Brie.

Moves to pre-empt civil-society objections

Realising that civil-society organisations including the union movement and conservationists now have the power, through the Internet, to mount an effective campaign, there have been moves to 'consult' with such groups and to 'address' their concerns in future negotiations of the WTO.

On 15-16 March, there took place at Geneva a high-level meeting on issues where trade and environmental interests intersect. One view on this has been published by US negotiator Charlene Barshefsky who is known to be responsive to trade lobbies such as paper and timber products. Her statement can be found at http://www.usis-australia.gov/hyper/WF981215/epf204.htm

Role of WTO [item 6 of 1996 Singapore Ministerial Declaration]
[Note that the WTO's 'liberalization' agenda is prefaced by goals of sustainability and 'common good' which makes it necessary for any trade agreement to relate to those goals, eg, by prescribing responsibilities.]

In pursuit of the goal of sustainable growth and development for the common good, we envisage a world where trade flows freely. To this end we renew our commitment to:

* a fair, equitable and more open rule-based system;
* progressive liberalization and elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade in goods;
* progressive liberalization of trade in services;
* rejection of all forms of protectionism;
* elimination of discriminatory treatment in international trade relations;
* integration of developing and least-developed countries and economies in transition into the multilateral system;
* the maximum possible level of transparency.

Communication of information

Stop MAI has entered a huge universe of bureaucracy and protest in which information overload is a major problem to be overcome. We may need to:

Submissions to DFAT

The formal public submissions which closed on 1 May, 1999, were handled by Mr Steve Moran, director of the Department's Trade Policy Section. The email address used was trade.consult@dfat.gov.au [which is not a permanent address and soon became defunct].
Mr Moran can also be accessed by fax at (02) 6261 3514

The Department's Head Office postal address is R G Casey Building, John McEwen Crescent, Barton ACT 0221.

DFAT's State office addresses and contacts can be found at
http://www.dfat.gov.au/sydney/
http://www.dfat.gov.au/melbourne/
http://www.dfat.gov.au/brisbane/
http://www.dfat.gov.au/adelaide/
http://www.dfat.gov.au/perth/
http://www.dfat.gov.au/darwin/
http://www.dfat.gov.au/hobart/

Some other DFAT sites are listed on my WTO Links page.

Consultation initiated by DFAT

It is no secret that international trade bureaucrats detest scrutiny of their purposes, methods and constant expensive peregrinations to the luxury hotels and resorts of the world on behalf of a grateful citizenry. Why, then, this sudden flurry of "consultation" ?

The answer is twofold. Firstly, pressure from StopMAI campaigners has had considerable influence and done great damage to the prestige of Treasury bureaucrats whose amateurish negotiation of the MAI was roundly condemned by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. Magnified worldwide, the same pressure on the OECD undoubtedly caused the demise of the MAI in Paris. The Federal Government and DFAT hope to avoid recurrence of this failure.

Secondly, DFAT had actually adopted (or been stuck with) a firm objective (i.e., in support of a new MAI) before even advertising for submissions. Thus, the consultations are little more than 'window-dressing'. In that respect, they are part of a promotional campaign which is necessary to sell the "Millennium Round" concept to business and industry, large sectors of which are very sceptical - having already been bruised on the 'level playing field' of the 1990s.

The proof is in the delay of DFAT's 'Issues Paper' until July 1999, when all of the essential behind-the scenes negotiations for the WTO Seattle Ministerial were scheduled to have been completed and a decision more or less 'set in concrete'. Thus, DFAT primly announced when caling for submissions:

"At the WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle (30 November to 3 December 1999), Trade Ministers are expected to agree on the structure, scope and timeframe for further negotiations. In order to assist Ministers in deciding what might be included in these future multilateral trade negotiations, the WTO has initiated a preparatory process to consider the wide range of issues which could potentially be included in such negotiations.

"To assist the Government in formulating Australia’s approach to future WTO negotiations, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade seeks public comments on Australia’s interests in these issues." [I have boldened the word 'future' because it craftily refers not to the crucial Seattle negotiations but to later dealings, after the irreversible commitments DFAT is striving to enter in Australia's name at Seattle. There is no acknowledgment by DFAT of any possiblity that trade ministers may not agree in the near future to future MAI-type negotiations.]

Singapore Ministerial Work Program

DFAT, in its invitation of submissions, announced "Comments are requested on what, if any, next steps should be taken with respect to issues raised in the context of the work of the working groups established on trade and investment, trade and competition policy, transparency in government procurement and the exploratory work undertaken by the WTO regarding trade facilitation.

"Particularly relevant are next steps in the above-mentioned areas, including the nature and scope of any future work. In the case of government procurement, there has already been agreement to identify possible elements for a multilateral transparency agreement and there have been recent calls for priority to be given to finalising such an agreement, possibly even in advance of the formal launch of a round of comprehensive multilateral trade negotiations.

"With respect to the work on investment and competition, over the last two years WTO Members have participated in an educative debate about linkages and work in 1999 should lead to consideration of possible areas for specific WTO work."

Alternative directions not considered

It seems very clear that DFAT has no intention of exploring the proposals which have been proposed by opponents of global trade totalitarianism. For instance, here is the unanimous resolution of a widely advertised and widely representative public meeting held in Perth on 26 June, 1999:

"[This meeting] calls on the Australian Government to support the development of an alternative and binding agreement on investments which democratically regulates international investments and promotes ecologically and socially sustainable global development."

Noting that DFAT had declined to participate in the public meeting, the resolution also called for full, open public participation in this process.

Campaign timeframe

A first-draft calendar of fixed dates is provided in this briefing. This necessarily follows the WTO's timetable. It is important that proactive as well as reactive events be catered for. The calendar is essential to advance planning. It will need to be kept under constant review.

 

Internet resources

The provided list of Useful URLs is an attempt to commence a convenient archive. We will need to expand and order the list. Obviously, the use of URLs is a good way of promoting brevity in reports. It is possible to place new documents (and critical sections of long documents) on to a publicly archived URL, eg, see the West Australian's MAI story posted last year at http://www.flora.org/mai/forum/4919

 

 

BACK to MAI Menu HOME