OECD Talks on Mai Officially End
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) December 3 announced, "Negotiations on the MAI are no longer taking place," officially ending three years of frustrating negotiations toward a Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). The end to ailing negotiations was precipitated in October when France announced it was withdrawing from negotiations. (See BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest Vol. 2, No. 43, November 09, 1998). The MAI had been vigorously opposed by labour, environment and citizens' groups for not incorporating labour and environment standards and for lack of transparency. The OECD had also been strongly criticised for its failure to include developing countries in negotiations; these, led by India, Egypt, Pakistan and Malaysia expressed strong suspicion and opposition toward the MAI and its presumed mandate over developing countries.
The OECD statement offered no direction as to where talks on investment would go next. It seems unlikely at this stage that talks would move to the WTO, although some reports say France and other European countries would like to move MAI talks there in order to expand participation from the 29 OECD countries to the 132 WTO member countries, including developing countries left out from OECD talks. Many developing nations remain wary of WTO MAI-type talks, arguing that WTO members should focus instead on implementing existing WTO agreements before embarking on regulating new issues. The U.S. thus far remains sceptical that a MAI agreement could be concluded at the WTO. The decision on whether to start WTO talks on a MAI-type agreement is
linked to the general issue of what issues to include in a new round of international trade talks, if such a round is indeed launched at the third WTO Ministerial Meeting at the end of 1999.
"Informal Consultations on International Investment, OECD PRESS RELEASE, December 3, 1998; "WTO seeks to extend deadline for completion of investment talks," INTERNATIONAL TRADE REPORTER, December 2, 1998; "OECD nations announce end of negotiations for investment rules," INSIDE US TRADE, December 11, 1998; "L'accord multilateral sur les investissements officiellement enterré," LE MONDE, December 6-7, 1998; "OECD reaffirms need for international investment rules," AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, December 3, 1998; ICTSD Internal Files.