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Multilateral Agreement on Investment


The Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) was to be an international agreement which established rules applicable world-wide for the movement of assets (money or production facilities) across national borders. Negotiations began in 1995 between the 29 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes Canada. Negotiations ended in 1998, without an agreement being reached. The agreement was to be based on the principle of non-discrimination, which means that a country would be required to give the same preferential treatment to foreign investors and companies as it might give to domestic investors and companies. The MAI also proposed a dispute settlement mechanism, in which companies would be able to sue governments (for the first time), if they perceived discrimination. The dispute would be settled by a panel of MAI officials, and not subject to an appeal.

In late 1998, France pulled out of the negotiations. While the Canadian government had been active in the negotiations, Canada also ceased negotiation, stating Canadian concerns about health care, social programs, culture, labour, environment, education, programs for Aboriginal Peoples and programs for minorities were not adequately met in the negotiations. Canada stated that any future agreement on investment should be negotiated at the World Trade Organization.

While the original version of the MAI appears to be dead, many of the principles the agreement sought to enshrine are important ones to debate. They may be incorporated into agreements under other names.

Some questions to consider in the discussion:

  • How is the continuing globalization economy affecting those at the "bottom" of societies?
  • How are decisions about trade made, and are they subject to a democratic process?
  • Do agreement include corporate responsibilities as well as rights?