April 12, 1999
WTO Ministerial Host City Snubs Clinton Trade Agenda
Seattle Passes “MAI Free Zone” Motion Rejecting International Meddling in Local Affairs
SEATTLE — Weeks after being named the site for a massive fall trade summit to be hosted by President Clinton, the Seattle City Council today unanimously passed a resolution rejecting international investment agreements that could supersede the city?s authority.
“The irony is delicious that the elected officials of the one city in the entire world chosen for the ultimate globalization summit have just rejected the very concept for themselves,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
Seattle became the latest jurisdiction to declare itself free of the “MAI or MAI-like rules in other fora including the WTO.” The MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investment) was a controversial proposed international treaty backed by the United States which would have minimized government regulatory authority over currency speculation, banks’ responsibility to communities, stock markets and environmental and other conditions for investments in mines, factories and more.
The MAI, secretly negotiated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), became public only when a leaked draft version was posted on the Internet. Massive opposition from a broad coalition of labor unions, environmental, human rights, consumer and faith-based groups joined by opposition by local elected officials from across the world killed the negotiations last year. MAI proponents are trying to revive it by adding it to the World Trade Organization (WTO) at the Seattle summit in November.
“The international business community is looking for a new way to shove these restrictions down the throats of local officials, but the local government at WTO ground zero has already said no, and they will win again like they did last year,” Wallach said.
Seattle is the latest of at least 30 international municipalities that have passed similar “MAI Free Zone” resolutions to protect their sovereignty. They include Geneva, Switzerland; Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver in Canada; San Francisco; and Boulder, Colo.
“The MAI fight was a worldwide wakeup call for local governments and elected officials,” Wallach said. “No longer can faceless international trade bureaucrats at the MAI or at the WTO unilaterally pass decrees without taking popular, local interests into account.”
Copies of the Seattle and other municipality resolutions are available upon request.