Date: Sun, 15 Feb 1998 23:31:10 +1300
Subject: Statement to the NZ Media; MAI is not dead

Multilateral Agreement on Investment

Makere Harawira, Letter to the Newsroom Editor, 15 February 1998

This memo is an urgent response to some complete misunderstandings about the real implications of the US position in refusing to sign the Multilateral Agreement on Investment in April. Far from being a victory for those who have worked hard to dissuade governments from participating in the MAI, this move by the US is a strategic position which they have adopted on other occasions (eg the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations) with extremely good effect.

What the US is actually saying is that they are not prepared to sign the Agreement in its current form because it doesn't go far enough. The issue for the US is that a number of countries are entering reservations in some significant areas which limit the ability of other countries to export particular kinds of goods to those countries; eg the European Union countries are attempting to retain a number of protections for certain of their own industries to European Union countries. Another example of course is the so-called Treaty reservation entered by New Zealand which is aimed at protecting (albeit temporarily) Maori industrial and cultural enterprise.

In refusing to sign the MAI as it stands, the US is sending a very strong message to all participating countries that they had better ‘shape up’ and significantly reduce the number and form of their reservations. In other words, the position is aimed at getting the other countries into line with the US aims.

(It is worth noting that during the Uruguay Round of the GATT Agreement) General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs) the US kept in place for itself a significant number of protections for its own industries. New Zealand, on the other hand, kept in place practically none.)

For Maori the critical need now is to realise the tremendous pressure that the US is now putting on countries to reduce or remove their reservations which means that the NZ government will also be under pressure. A recent example is the reported comments of the US Chamber of Commerce stating that New Zealand's Resource Management Act is a barrier to foreign investment. Consequently the Resource Management is being redefined, ostensibly in the name of ‘efficiency’ (see NZ Herald article by Phil Irwin recently).

For Maori, some of the concerns are that issues such as the WAI 262 claim regarding Maori cultural and intellectual property rights are under threat even more, as is the reservation for Maori commercial and industrial enterprise and the future of the Treaty of Waitangi.

It is critical for New Zealand as a whole that people are not misled by the US government's strategy to exert pressure on governments but continue to lobby for the government's immediate and permanent withdrawal from negotiations for an agreement that removes the last vestiges of sovereignty from the government.

Makere Harawira