Regionalization, not Globalization!
By Maria Mies
[This interview originally published in: Jungle World, April 15, 1998 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.nadir.org/nadir/periodika/jungle_world/_98/15/03a.htm.]
[The world as a global free trade zone could soon become reality if the Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI) takes effect. For three years, the 29 states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris negotiated the agreement. The MAI provides far-reaching regulations on protecting foreign investments abroad and grants the same rights to foreign corporations as to indigenous businesses. Multinational corporations complain when they see themselves discriminated by national legislation. Critics feared that all possibilities of enforcing social and ecological conditions would be removed with the complete loss of national sovereignty... Nationalists have also discovered this theme.]
[One of the initiators of the Anti-Mai campaign is Maria Mies, emeritus professor of sociology in Koln, Germany. She describes herself as an eco-feminist and is well-known through her studies on subsistence production in countries of the so-called Third World.]
The MAI is reproached for handing over nation states to the multinationals. However even without this agreement, corporations do not invest or withdraw their capital when they do not find favorable prerequisites. What is new about the MAI?
The problem is that foreign investments are declared the most important motor of growth. Everyone believes this dogma, even in the so-called developing countries. In Germany, this is emphasized incessantly by the economics ministry to rescue its position. If investors fail to appear, this would be a serious punishment in the sense of neoliberal policy.
This punishment already occurs.
Yes. The Federal Government of Germany protests that the MAI would not represent any fundamental change. A foreign investor can withdraw his profits entirely from the Federal Republic of Germany according to present laws. However extending these rules to the so-called Third World as in the MAI would be disastrous. Part of the profits should be invested in the host country to realize certain development goals. Such conditions would be impossible with the MAI.
These conditions are more the exception today in southern countries, for example in Latin America.
With the MAI, these countries would have no possibility any more for their own economic policy. These countries will then only function as locations for the profit production of multinationals as already happens everywhere in the free trade zones.
Observance of this agreement could only be reviewed and enforced by an international authority. Such an authority doesn't even exist.
The MAI creates an authority, an international arbitration board outside state and parliamentary control composed mainly of representatives of the economy. Corporations would be treated like legal persons able to sue the respective state when economic damages arise through national and sub-national legislation.
Who will enforce this arbitration?
A world police is certainly impossible. However governments violating the agreement must expect economic sanctions of other participating states. The details are not entirely clear.
Would this be prevented if the nation states retained their national sovereignty? In Great Britain, the Thatcher government carried out a complete deregulation of the labor market more extreme than the OECD.
We resist this policy that has led to an extreme polarization. The famous "trickle-down" effect - the lower social classes also profit when the elites prosper - is a lie.
The question was whether nation states represent an authority to which one can appeal.
The question is legitimate. What authority can protect the population from the state if the state is only an accessory of the multinationals? The MAI assumes that governments act like multinationals as though the respective countries and popular sovereignty were their private property that could be sold on certain conditions. Conversely corporations could act like governments and prescribe laws to the states.
This means, the past definition of the nation state is outmoded. The alternative visible in the resistance movement is that another idea of sovereignty and new concepts of democracy could arise enabling people to determine the economy, not the corporations. This is also conceivable beyond the nation state in a region or a city. In Canada, for example, whole provinces have declared themselves MAI-free zones. The alternative globalization versus nation state is outdated. Instead of globalization, we hope for regionalization but not under the rule of capital.
Our protest is directed first against the policy of the multinationals. Obviously we also turn to the parliaments. They should finally wake up and inform themselves about what they sign. This does not mean glorifying nation states and viewing them as the only alternative.
The warning about abandonment of the nation state is also formulated by the right-wing. In France, the Front Nationale sees the national culture threatened by the MAI.
I also see this danger. Almost inevitably, right-wing groups declare like the left: the MAI goes too far. What will happen with our sovereignty and self-determination? Therefore it is important to emphasize that we are against globalization through capital without defending the nation state of the old configuration. We are internationalists!
Do you think the fundamental error is built into every discourse implying emancipatory qualities in the nation state that can also be utilized by the right-wing?
Our resistance against the MAI awards no emancipatory qualities to the nation state. As a woman, I have never trusted the state. The problem is probably a specific German problem. In France, no one is worked up about struggling for the national culture. If we would make this a theme in Germany, we would be immediately denounced as fascists. Among us this operates like a thought prohibition. I resist this. Opposing globalization and simultaneously pleading for the rights of workers, women and the environment must be possible. Turning to the parliaments of the territories does not mean we are national chauvinists.