v7n2_10 - Preaching Against the Choir: An Examination of...

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The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations Preaching Against the Choir: An Examination of the Influence of Multinational Enterprises On the Negotiation of Investment Rules at the World Trade Organization by Brian N. Zeiler-Kligman I n many circles, there seems to be a consensus that multinational enterprises (MNEs) dominate the World Trade Organization, dwarfing the interests of all other groups. Reading literature regarding the WTO, one regularly encounters statements such as “[t]oday’s agenda [for the next round of trade talks at the WTO], set by multinational enterprises engaging in foreign direct investment…” 1 or “[g]iven the importance of multinationals in dominating world trade and being major investors in developing countries, further developments in investment policy/rules within the WTO are likely.” 2 These commentators, and those echoing such sentiments, take as an article of faith that the economic clout of MNEs compels the WTO to cater to their whims; that what the MNEs want is what determines WTO priorities. As this is an article of faith, the truth of this proposition escapes verification by such commentators. MNEs appear to be fairly busy outside of their business dealings, for it is not only the WTO that supposedly kowtows to big business. Regional agreements and organizations, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), are also accused of serving the interests of MNEs. 3 While some may accept these positions as given, this paper tempts accusations of heresy by testing the extent to which MNEs direct the negotiating agenda of the WTO. Do MNEs really dictate the direction of the trading agenda? Do MNEs appear to have relatively more influence at one organization as compared to another? This paper will show that MNEs in fact do not dominate the WTO or its negotiating agenda. A combination of structural, systemic, and perceptual factors have served to diminish MNEs’ influence on the WTO agenda, particularly when compared to their ability to dominate the Brian N. Zeiler-Kligman , M.A., LL.B., Policy Analyst, International, Canadian Chamber of Commerce. The views expressed herein are the author’s alone, and do not represent the views of any organization with which the author is affiliated. 107
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ZEILER-KLIGMAN The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations agenda of other international agreements and organizations, such as NAFTA and the OECD. The issue of investment rules shall be used to demonstrate the above conclusions. Investment is an ideal topic to discuss for a number of reasons. First, logically speaking, without investment in foreign countries, there could not be MNEs. If it were true that MNEs set the WTO negotiating agenda, then it would logically follow that their particular interest in foreign investment would lead to the development of rules encouraging such investment. Second, investment has only
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v7n2_10 - Preaching Against the Choir: An Examination of...

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