The Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) was a proposed treaty by the World Trade Organization (WTO) that aimed to establish a global framework for the regulation and protection of foreign investment. The agreement was first proposed in 1995 and negotiations were held behind closed doors until 1998, when the draft was leaked to the public. This led to widespread public opposition, with critics arguing that the MAI would undermine sovereignty, stifle democratic decision-making, and prioritize corporate interests over social and environmental concerns.
The MAI aimed to establish a set of rules and principles for investment protection, including national treatment, most-favored-nation treatment, and investor-state dispute settlement. National treatment means that foreign investors would receive the same treatment as domestic investors in terms of access to markets, protections, and privileges. Most-favored-nation treatment means that foreign investors would receive the same treatment as any other foreign investor in the same sector or country. Investor-state dispute settlement means that foreign investors would be able to sue governments for damages if their investments were unfairly expropriated, discriminated against, or otherwise harmed.
Proponents of the MAI argued that it would promote economic growth, create jobs, and encourage foreign investment by providing a stable and predictable regulatory environment. They also argued that it would provide a level playing field for all investors, regardless of their nationality or size. However, critics argued that the MAI would undermine democracy by giving corporations the power to challenge public policies and regulations that they deemed harmful to their profits. They also argued that the MAI would exacerbate global inequality by prioritizing the interests of multinational corporations over local communities and the environment.
The MAI negotiations were ultimately abandoned in 1998, in part due to public opposition and in part due to disagreements among participating countries. However, many of its provisions have been incorporated into other trade and investment agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). These agreements have also been criticized for their lack of transparency, democratic accountability, and social or environmental safeguards.
In summary, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment was a proposed treaty by the World Trade Organization that aimed to establish a global framework for the regulation and protection of foreign investment. While proponents argued that it would promote economic growth and create jobs, critics argued that it would undermine democracy and exacerbate global inequality. The MAI negotiations were ultimately abandoned in 1998, but its provisions continue to influence other trade and investment agreements.