Hordes of vigilantes & popular elements defeat Mai, for now

This is a follow up to my article on the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) in the May issue . That went to press a few weeks before the April 27 target date for signing of the MAI by the OECD countries. At the time, it was fairly clear that agreement would not be reached, and it was not—an important event, worth considering carefully. In part the failure resulted from internal disputes—for example, European objections to the U.S. federal system and the extraterritorial reach of U.S. laws, concerns about maintaining some degree of cultural autonomy, and so on. But a much more significant problem was looming. It was becoming increasingly difficult to ensure that the rules of global order would continue to be “written by the lawyers and businessmen who plan to benefit” and “by governments taking advice and guidance from these lawyers and businessmen,” while “invariably, the thing missing is the public voice”—the Chicago Tribune’ s accurate description of the negotiations for the MAI, as well as ongoing efforts to “craft rules” for “global activity” in other domains without public interference. It was, in short, becoming more difficult to restrict awareness and engagement to sectors identified by the Clinton administration, with unusual and unintended clarity, as its “domestic constituencies”: the U.S. Council for International Business, which “advances the global interests of American business both at home and abroad,” and concentrations of private power generally—but crucially not Congress (which had not been informed, in violation of Constitutional requirements) and the general public, its voice stilled by a “veil of secrecy” that was maintained with impressive discipline during three years of intensive negotiations.
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