The Multilateral Agreement on Investment

The Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) was being negotiated to “facilitate international investment by ensuring that host governments treat all foreign and domestic firms similarly” (Kobrin, 1998). This agreement faced harsh scrutiny as it was largely beneficial to one side (the affluent world). These negotiations were conducted by OECD countries whose mandate is to pursue the economic growth of its member states; all but three who are countries from the Global North. This in itself is an issue because that means the MAI is being discussed by and will likely only benefit the OECD members, thus the Global North. Critics of the MAI claimed it would immensely empower corporations, even to the point where they could use their “sovereign power to govern countries” (Kobrin, 1998). The MAI was considered a “major and immediate threat to democracy, sovereignty, the environment, human rights and economic development” (Kobrin, 1998, p.98). The main concerns the public had regarding the MAI focused on “treating foreign firms as national, extending benefits to foreign investors, bans on performance requirements exportation clause and the right of corporations to sue governments” (Kobrin, 1998, p.102). The last concern is one of the most crucial concerns, the MAI would provide corporations with such great power that they could sue governments. This means that if governments supported environmental policies that hindered corporate profits then corporations would have the right to sue. Critics argue that acceptance of the MAI will have devastating health, environmental, human rights impacts. The issue that is extremely interesting about the MAU is how it was halted. Preamble collective brought the MAI agreement forward to the public. What was previously a discussion being had secretively for three years became public internationally. Media and increased technology has a large hand in achieving this as the incomplete agreement was uploaded onto the internet. This sparked wide spread debate across the world regarding the concerns of the MAI. Media was a grand component of raising awareness as well as creating resistance for the MAI; such as protests, debates and pledges. Media serves as a tool to bond a broad range of groups (human rights, and environmental activists) in order to oppose the MAI. Some people argue that media didn’t serve to halt the MAI, however, it can be argued that media’s ability to raise awareness quickly enabled these other components to occur. Media’s bringing forth of the issue is the initial incident and therefore it has one of the greatest hands in preventing the MAI.


Stephen Kobrin(1998)  “The MAI and the Clash of Globalizations,”Foreign Policy 

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