World Trade, Environmental & Social Damage

A year ago, a broad alliance of pressure groups alerted parliamentarians to the dangers of the Multilateral agreement on Investment. The MAI treaty was an international agreement discussed by OECD governments, setting a framework for trade liberalisation and protection of all kinds of free trade investments. A national (and local) MAI coalition was formed to warn against legislators of the dangers of the treaty. Local authorities, trade unions, environmentalists, development groups and progressive  businesses warned that the MAI could undermine attempts to promote ethical trade.

In December 1998 the MAI treaty and negotiations were defeated by the MAI coalition (and the French government).

Now, a new threat is seriously emerging, with the British government going to the World Trade Organisation opening  negotiations in Seattle, USA on 30th November supporting the EU position of a “comprehensive round” of  investment and “new issues” talks at these forthcoming “Millennium round” negotiations. At a national level these proposals could have dramatic, negative effects on not only the UK but also many already impoverished third world countries too. If talks about investment and government procedures are (allowed to be) held in Seattle, the outcome would be to constrain local economic and environmental decision making and have a consequent, adverse effect on agriculture, rural economies and food standards.

Once again, national and local opposition is mobilised with FoE, WDM and Christian Aid all calling for a ceasing of negotiations to initiate any investment or new issues into the WTO and for an independent review of current trade rules and agreements, with a view to establishing a system of commerce that benefits people, their livelihoods and resources.

In Sheffield the first meeting of the Sheffield (peoples’ coalition) for  Fair World Trade was held on Monday 25th October with over 15 concerned members agreeing plans for political lobbying (of Richard Caborn MP trade minister and Tony Blair), and for days of action to be held in Sheffield on Friday 19th and Saturday 20th November. Street theatre and friendly direct actions are being considered too.

You are welcome to join this active coalition by contacting:

Steve Marshall  or Chris/Nick