Heads up folks! The here comes Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI)
House Speaker Newt Gingrich "promised that Congress would try again this
September to give President Clinton expanded fast-track trade-negotiating
authority," reports the New York Times (June 26, 1998 p. 6).
Is this a ploy by Gingrich to catch opponents of the anti-worker,
anti-environment, anti-democracy MAI off-guard?
President Clinton sought fast-track authority last fall for the MAI and was
defeated. Clinton had decided not to seek authority again until after the
elections in November. The NY Times reports Gingrich's move as a partisan
maneuver, aimed at dividing Democrats before the elections. This focus on
partisan jockeying is typical of the quasi-official press, including the NY
Times and National Public Radio.
There is another possibility: that Gingrich hopes to push fast-track
through while opponents are unprepared, by speeding up the schedule.
Whether or not that is his intent, we need to spread the word quickly among
opponents that fast-track may come to Congress as early as September, and
be prepared to fight it again.
Fast-track authority means that Congress agrees ahead of time not to try to
amend a treaty negotiated by the executive branch, just to vote it up or
The MAI is a treaty being negotiated in secret. Leaked drafts would commit
the U.S. for 30 years to giving an unelected transnational body the power
to override duly enacted laws and regulations, at federal state and local
levels, if the laws or regulations are deemed to obstruct free investment.
Such laws would include laws governing wages, working conditions,
organizing rights, workplace and public health and safety standards, and
anti-pollution and other enviromental laws.
Fast-track MAI is a double attack on our democratic rights. Fast-track
limits debate and deliberation in Congress. Despite widespread legal
corruption by corporate money, Congress remains the most democratic part of
our government. Fast-track is designed to prevent us from using a full
Congressional debate as a focus for opposing anti-worker and
anti-environment trade legislation. It prevents discussion of amendments
that could protect worker rights and the environment.
MAI is even worse for democracy. It gives away our rights to elect a
government that might make laws and rules protecting workers and the
environment. It says that no matter who we elect, they can't make such
laws if an unelected body says no. That body will be accountable to the
transnational companies ("the markets") but not to ordinary workers and
The Clinton Democrats and the Republicans are negotiating away the rights
of U.S. citizens and workers around the world in favor of international
business profits. Clinton and the Republicans know they can't win MAI
under normal democratic terms. That's why they want undemocratic
It is a disgrace that fast-track and MAI would *divide* the Democrats
rather than uniting them in opposition. It shows that the Democratic Party
is not really a party for workers or a reliable ally, and demonstrates why
workers and the labor movement need to their own autonomous political
Gingrich says he thinks he can get fast-track through in September "because
of the Asian crisis and farm prices." Both were caused by earlier "free
trade" policies -- unregulated banking and anti-worker IMF structural
adjustment for the Asian crisis, and the anti-family farm, pro-agribusiness
"Freedom to Farm Act" for farm prices. Dr. Gringrich's Rx? More of the
same poison. Don't swallow it!
(member, Greater Boston Labor Party)