Seattle declares itself "MAI-Free Zone"!

GENEVA: The City of Seattle, where the US government has
invited the WTO to hold its 3rd Ministerial meeting, has
declared itself an MAI-Free Zone!
To meet the costs of holding the WTO meeting, the US
Federal Government has had a host committee, chaired by
Microsoft's Bill Gates and having as members other big
corporate names, all of whom support and push for an
international trade regime that would enhance the property
rights (very broadly defined) of foreign corporations and
investors against governments of countries.
But in a resolution adopted by unanimous vote on 12 April,
the Seattle City Council has expressed support for the City's
right to regulate within its jurisdiction on a variety of
questions including how to spend its procurement funds, support
local development, and pass laws to protect the environment and
fair labour practices, and oppose the provisions of the
proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) that could
restrict this ability.

Political statement

Seattle has joined other cities across the United States that
have made or adopted similar resolutions, which may have no
legal value (in applicable US domestic law or international
rules), but constitute a political statement.
Other cities and sub-federal authorities in the US and
Canada that have taken a similar stand include Olympia,
Turnwater, San Francisco, Oakland, Houston, Boulder, Berkeley
and Vancouver (British Columbia, in Canada), the Western
Governors Association, the Association of Washington Cities,
the Washington State Association of Counties and the National
Association of Counties.
The coalition of NGOs campaigning against international
investment rules, in a press release, noted that ever since the
collapse of the negotiations for an MAI at the OECD,
proponents of such an agreement have been looking for new
avenues for negotiations. Several have cast their eyes on the
WTO and want to see investment issues included in an upcoming
round of trade negotiations. "The opposition to an MAI is
based on substance, not the venue where it was being
negotiated," the NGOs said. The opposition "will grow until
politicians realize that the MAI model is fundamentally
flawed, and start listening to the concerns of labour unions,
environmental groups, human rights activists, consumer
organizations, women's groups and all other parts of the broad
coalition that helped stop the MAI in the OECD."

The above article first appeared in the South-North
Development Monitor (SUNS).