By Francisco Whitaker (English translation by Peter Lenny),
Early in 1998, the proposal for a Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI) was made public. It was to be signed by the worlds wealthiest countries, then to be “proposed” to – in practice, imposed on – the rest of the countries in the world. The agreement had been discussed in secret in the OECD, the intention being for it to become a kind of World Constitution for Capital, which would give capital all the rights and almost no duties – especially in Third World countries where the “investments” would be made. The French newspaper Le Monde Diplomatique published a first exposé prepared in the United States by the “Public Citizens” movement led by Ralph Nader, in an article by Lori Wallach, a lawyer with the movement. The outcry at the absurdities contained in the agreement led to the emergence of a social movement in protest, causing France to withdraw from the negotiations in late 1998 and finally preventing the agreement from being signed.
One of the organizations to spur this mobilization was ATTAC – at first the Association for a Tobin Tax for the Aid of Citizens, and now the Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for the Aid of Citizens – that was starting to take shape in France at the time, also following a proposal in this direction by Le Monde Diplomatique.
Today the association has some 20,000 of supporters all over France and has produced ATTACs in other countries round the world, including Brazil. The association is working to put into effect Economics Nobel laureate James Tobin’s proposal for a tax on speculative capital movements as a way of controlling their present absolute freedom to circulate worldwide, with the consequences we all know so well. (full text).