NAFTA - Reality for Maquiladora-Workers
MAI: Wonnemonat für das Kaptial



The North American Free Trade Agreement

January 1999

Implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) began on Jan. 1, 1994. This agreement will remove most barriers to trade and investment among the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Under the NAFTA, all nontariff barriers to agricultural trade between the United States and Mexico were eliminated. In addition, many tariffs were eliminated immediately, with others being phased out over periods of 5 to 15 years. All agricultural provisions will be implemented by the year 2008. For import-sensitive industries, long transition periods and special safeguards will allow for an orderly adjustment to free trade with Mexico.

The agricultural provisions of the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA), in effect since 1989, were incorporated into the NAFTA. Under these provisions, all tariffs affecting agricultural trade between the United States and Canada, with a few exceptions for items covered by tariff-rate quotas (TRQ’s), were removed before Jan. 1, 1998.

Mexico and Canada reached a separate bilateral NAFTA agreement on market access for agricultural products. The Mexican-Canadian agreement eliminated most tariffs either immediately or over 5, 10, or 15 years. Tariffs between the two countries affecting trade in dairy, poultry, eggs, and sugar are maintained.

Benefits to U.S. Agriculture: Canada and Mexico are, respectively, the second and third largest export markets for U.S. agricultural products. Exports to the two markets combined are greater than exports to Japan or the 15-member European Union. In fiscal year 1998 (October-September), nearly one out of every four dollars earned through U.S. agricultural exports was earned in North America.

From fiscal year (FY) 1992-98, the value of U.S. agricultural exports worldwide climbed 26 percent. Over that same period, U.S. farm and food exports to our two NAFTA markets grew by 48 percent. In FY 1998, U.S. farmers, food processors, and exporters shipped nearly $249 million worth of agricultural products to Canada and Mexico a week. This is an increase of $135 million a week and $7.0 billion a year compared with what they shipped, on average, during the four years prior to NAFTA.

Trade with Mexico: From fiscal year 1997 to 1998, U.S. farm and food exports to Mexico climbed by $881 million to $5.9 billion -- the highest level ever and the fourth record in 5 years under NAFTA. U.S. exports of soybeans, cotton, and rice all set new records. By value, more U.S. agricultural products went to Mexico last year than to China, Hong Kong, and Russia combined.

In the years immediately prior to NAFTA, U.S. agricultural products lost market share in Mexico as competition for the Mexican market increased. NAFTA reversed this trend. The United States now supplies more than 75 percent of Mexico’s total agricultural imports, due in part to the price advantage and preferential access that U.S. products now enjoy. For example, Mexico’s imports of U.S. red meat and poultry have grown rapidly, exceeding pre-NAFTA levels and reaching the highest level ever in FY 1998.

NAFTA kept Mexican markets open to U.S. farm and food products despite the worst economic crisis in Mexico’s modern history. In the wake of the peso devaluation and its aftermath, U.S. agricultural exports dropped by only 11 percent in FY 1995, and have since surged back with a 60-percent gain in FY 1998. NAFTA cushioned the downturn and helped speed the recovery because of preferential access for U.S. products. In fact, rather than raising import barriers in response to its economic problems, Mexico adhered to NAFTA commitments and continued to reduce tariffs.

January 1998 marked the fifth round of tariff cuts under NAFTA, further opening the market to U.S. products. U.S. commodities now eligible for duty-free access under Mexico’s NAFTA TRQ’s, include U.S. corn, dried beans, poultry, animal fats, barley, eggs, and potatoes. All tariffs are to be eliminated by 2008.

Although agricultural trade has increased in both directions under NAFTA, U.S. exports to Mexico have increased faster than imports from Mexico. The U.S. agricultural trade surplus with Mexico was $1.32 billion in FY 1998.

Trade with Canada: Canada has been a steadily growing market for U.S. agriculture under the FTA, with U.S. farm and food exports increasing an average of nearly 10 percent a year from FY 1990-98. U.S. exports reached a record $7.0 billion to Canada in FY 1998, an increase of more than 89 percent since FY 1990. Fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, snacks foods, and other consumer foods account for close to three-fourths of U.S. sales.

U.S. exports of bulk, intermediate, and consumer-oriented products to Canada all set records in FY 1998, with new value highs for coarse grains, rice, vegetable oils, feeds and fodders, planting seeds, snack foods, breakfast cereals, red meats, poultry meat, dairy products, eggs and products, fresh and processed vegetables and vegetable juices, processed fruits and fruit juices, and several other product categories.

Before the 1989 FTA with Canada, U.S. products generally accounted for less than 60 percent of total Canadian agricultural imports. U.S. products now make up around two-thirds of total import value, as the U.S. share has trended upward at the expense of other suppliers because of lower tariffs and preferential U.S. access under the FTA/NAFTA. With a few exceptions, tariffs not already eliminated dropped to zero on Jan. 1, 1998.

In 1996, the first NAFTA dispute settlement panel reviewed the higher tariffs Canada is applying to its dairy, poultry, egg, barley, and margarine products, which were previously subject to nontariff barriers before implementation of the Uruguay Round. The panel ruled that Canada’s tariff-rate quotas are consistent with NAFTA, and thus do not have to be eliminated.

NAFTA Eliminates Trade Barriers: Under NAFTA, all nontariff measures affecting agricultural trade between the United States and Mexico were eliminated on Jan. 1, 1994. These barriers -- including Mexico’s import licensing system (which had been the largest single barrier to U.S. agricultural sales) -- were converted to either tariff-rate quotas or ordinary tariffs.

All agricultural tariffs between Mexico and the United States will be eliminated. Many were immediately eliminated and others will be phased out over transition periods of 5, 10, or 15 years. The immediate tariff eliminations applied to a broad range of agricultural products. In fact, more than half  the value of agricultural trade became duty free when the agreement went into effect. Tariff reductions between the United States and Canada had already been implemented under the U.S.-Canada FTA.

Both Mexico and the United States protected their import-sensitive sectors with longer transition periods, tariff-rate quotas, and, for certain products, special safeguard provisions. However, once the 15-year transition period has passed, free trade with Mexico will prevail for all agricultural products. NAFTA also provides for tough rules of origin to ensure that maximum benefits accrue only to those items produced in North America.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities

To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 14th and Independence Avenue, SW, Washington DC 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice or TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer


 Over 2,350 operations in the Mexican Maquiladoras produce product, primarily for
export. These operations employ 1,000,000 Mexican workers at extremely low wages. Employment in the Mexican Maquiladoras has increased by approximately 100% since 1993. Companies in 20 different countries use the Mexican Maquiladoras to exploit Mexican workers and gain access to the U.S. and Canadian markets with little or no regulation or control. These countries include: Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, England, France, and others.

Reality for Maquiladora Workers

Workers and families live in shacks built from scraps of wood and metal with dirt
floors. Hundreds of thousands of shacks along dirt roads with deep ruts and standing water Sewage flowing along open ditches. Conveniently beyond the view of the modern industrial parks and their corporate visitors.
Companies exploiting workers and their environment. Poverty wages paid by huge multinational corporations. Non- existent application of safety or environmental standards. Mental, physical and sometimes sexual abuse

These are NOT refugee families fleeing famine, war, or political oppression.
This is NOT a situation that the rich multi-national companies cannot afford decent wages paid in other facilities across the border,
Huge savings generated are NOT being used to lower the cost of their

These ARE workers who labor each day in a modern factory for many of
the same employers as workers in the U.S.
Employers ARE fleeing to the Mexican Maquiladoras from the U.S. and
other countries to exploit Mexican workers and their environment.
Companies ARE hoarding the savings generated from their exploitation
for higher and higher corporate profits.



Top ten lists are based upon the number of workers employed in the Mexican Maquildoras.

For additional information regarding trade related issues contact:
United Steelworkers of America, Fair Trade Watch, Five Gateway Center Pittsburgh, PA 15222


MAI: Wonnemonat für das Kapital -

Unter Ausschluß der Öffentlichkeit bereitete die OECD ein Abkommen zum Schutz ausländischer Investitionen vor, das nationale Regierungen noch stärker dem internationalen Kapital ausliefert.

Wir schreiben die Verfassung des globalen Marktes", sprach Renato Ruggiero, der Präsident der Welthandelshandelsorganisation (WTO). Diese ökonomistische Allmachtsphantasie wird seit Mai 1995 in der OECD ausverhandelt. Ziel dieses "Multilateral Agreement on Investment" (MAI) ist die Liberalisierung und der Schutz ausländischer Investitionen. Die Einhaltung der MAI-Prinzipien kann von multinationalen Unternehmen eingeklagt werden, und die Staaten haben sich an das Urteil eines im MAI vorgesehenen Schiedsgerichtes zu halten. Die Bestimmungen dieses geplanten Ab-kommens stellen nach Ansicht seiner Kritikerlnnen eine neoliberale Verschärfung und Ausdehnung der NAFTA-Bestimmungen über den ganzen Globus dar.

Kritisiert wird von US-amerikanischen und kanadischen NG0s, daß die Verhandlungen bislang fernab jeder Öffentlichkeit erfolgten und daß die Machtverschiebung zugunsten multinationaler Unternehmen und ihre Auswirkungen politisch nicht diskutiert werden. Das MAI soll im Mai 1998 unterzeichnet werden. Die unterzeichnenden Staaten verpflichten sich, für mindestens 20 Jahre die Bestimmungen des MAI zum Schutz internationaler Investitionen einzuhalten. Laut OECD ist das MAI "der erste Versuch, in ei-nem internationalen Abkommen multilaterale Verpflichtungen zu schaffen, welche den Schutz von Investitionen, die Liberalisierung von Investitionen und verpflich-tende Streitbeilegungsmechanismen kom-biniert". Es zielt auf die "Eliminierung von Rahmenbedingungen, welche internationale Investitionsflüsse stören könnten." Die ausländischen Investoren sollen zumindest "nationale Behandlung" (Gleich-stellung mit inländischen Unternehmen) und einen" Meistbegünstigtenstatus" genießen. Da "Investitionen" vom MAI extrem weit definiert werden - u. a. auch geistiges Eigentum, Grundstücke, indirekte (speku-lative) Investitionen -, wird nahezu die gesamte Ökonomie eines Landes prinzipiell von den MAI-Bestimmungen erfaßt.

Entstehungshintergrund des MAI ist der Versuch vor allem der USA, im Interesse ihrer Konzerne die regulativen Möglichkeiten von Regierungen zu beschränken (z. B. Verpflichtung zu einem Mindestanteil von einheimischen Beschäftigten, zur einheimischen Vorproduktion, Regulationen von Gewinn- und Kapitaltransfers usw.). Weiters soll eine Öffnung von geschlossenen oder regulierten Märkten erzwungen

werden, was im Falle der Länder der südlichen Hemisphäre nicht durchgehend über die Strukturanpassungsreformen von IWF und Weltbank zu bewerkstelligen war.

Um eine Verwässerung des neoliberalen Entwurfes zu vermeiden, verhandeln nur die 29 reichsten Industrienationen (unter Beobachtung u. a. von IWF und WTO). Andere Staaten können und sollen laut OECD dem Vertragswerk beitreten, allerdings dann zu den bereits festgelegten Bedingungen. Die Nicht-OECD-Länder befinden sich da-bei in einem Dilemma: Einerseits wollen sie ausländische Investitionen anziehen (was ihnen schwerer gemacht wird, wenn sie sich nicht den Bedingungen des MAI unterwerfen), andererseits verzichten sie durch den Beitritt auf wichtige Instrumente, um regulierend eingreifen zu können. Eine kritische Analyse der Entwürfe sowie eine öffentliche Diskussion über das Vertragswerk, welches Staaten unabhängig vom politischen Willen seiner Bürgerlnnen 20 Jahre lang bindet, fehlen bislang.

von Bernhard Mark-Ungericht



"We are writing the constitution of a single global economy."
Renato Ruggerio, Director General of the World Trade Organization
(WTO), October 8, 1996 speech presented to the UNCTAD Trade
and Development Board.

It's the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), an agreement under negotiation in Paris behind
closed doors since 1995 by 29 of the wealthy nations that make up the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD).
If the targeted completion date of late spring 1998 is met, the MAI could come to the Senate for
ratification as a treaty as early as the summer of 1998.


Because MAI policymakers in the Clinton Administration don't think the public needs to know.
Apparently they don't think Congress needs to know either, since America's elected representatives have
been kept in the dark too, even though the text of the agreement is almost final.
But the world's major corporations know about it--and they like it a lot. The U.S. Council for
International Business and other corporate lobbies have been consulted regularly and are actively
involved in developing the MAI. Meanwhile, non-governmental labor, environmental and community
organizations have been largely shut out.


The MAI is designed to multiply the power of corporations over governments and eliminate policies that
could restrict the movement of factories and money around the world. It places corporate profits above
all other values. If enacted in its current form, the MAI would radically limit our ability to promote
social, economic and environmental justice. In other words, it puts our democracy at risk.
This is why the MAI is being strongly resisted by people around the globe. Citizens' and indigenous
movements are rallying against the MAI in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The MAI tramples on our democracy by empowering foreign corporations to sue governments directly
for cash compensation for failure to enforce the MAI. Taxpayers would be required to pick up the tab.


The MAI would set strongly enforced global rules limiting governments' right and ability to regulate
foreign investors and corporations. Specifically, it would...

Empower foreign corporations to sue the federal government over federal, state and local laws,
which could force governments to pay damages and/or overturn their laws. (Investor to State
Dispute Settlement)

Require governments, as a result of binding arbitration, to compensate foreign corporations for laws
that could limit corporate profits, such as environment, human rights, labor, public health,
consumer protection and local community development standards. Believe it or not, this would
even apply to government policies that could limit future profits. (Establishes a global "regulatory
takings" law.)

Prevent governments from promoting local businesses by requiring that foreign corporations be
treated at least as favorably as domestic companies. Foreign corporations could be treated better
than domestic companies, however. (National Treatment)

Require countries to treat investors from any country in the same manner, preventing any country
or state from using human rights, labor or environmental standards as investment criteria. (Most
Favored Nation)

Keep governments from requiring foreign corporations to meet certain conditions, such as
maintaining an investment in a community for a set amount of time, using recycled or domestic
content in manufacturing, or hiring local workers even if the same requirements are applied to
domestic investments. (Performance Requirements)


The MAI would establish and consolidate extensive rights for investors and corporations while
limiting existing protections for labor. As a result, the standard of living and the rights of working
people in the United States and worldwide would be threatened in a number of ways. Here are a few:

Foreign corporations would be exempt from many national, state and local initiatives that promote
local employment and investments because the MAI bans performance standards and other policies
that target specific kinds of development such as small business.
No one would be able to require foreign firms to hire a certain percentage of local residents. They
could not be required to use domestic materials, which creates local jobs.
The MAI makes it easier for corporations to move capital where and when it is most profitable
with little accountability. This would accelerate plant closings and job loss in the U.S. as
corporations seek lower wages and labor standards, especially as developing countries are
pressured into signing the MAI.

As NAFTA has already shown, corporations can use the threat of moving to other countries to
diminish union organizing and power. The MAI would dramatically increase their ability to use this

The MAI would pose an immediate threat to environmental protection. Regulating business operations is
vital to controlling environmental damage. The gravest threat to government's power to regulate is in the
MAI's provisions on expropriation and the ability of foreign corporations to sue governments if policies
undermine planned profits.
By allowing foreign corporations to challenge environmental and health regulations in special "corporate
courts," the MAI would arm investors to attack existing policies or to discourage future government
actions for a safe and healthy environment. Here's how:
TOXICS: If the MAI becomes law, many federal, state and local laws governing toxics would be
endangered. Foreign companies could claim that the value of their investments would decline due to
policies restricting toxic emissions or disposal practices. As in the Ethyl case cited above, investors are
already trying to intimidate governments and forestall regulation by suing for huge sums.
PROCUREMENT: Federal, state and local governments are at last beginning to introduce social
concerns into how they spend taxpayers' money. An executive order directs federal agencies to buy
"green" products, such as those made with recycled content or using renewable energy. Cities and
counties are moving in this direction too. These good efforts would run afoul of the MAI which would
ban any performance requirements, for instance offering priority to companies using best environmental

SUSTAINABILITY and NATURAL RESOURCES: The MAI clashes with the move towards a more
sustainable future, which many believe should be built on small-scale enterprises and local control of
resources. The MAI would also guarantee large multinational corporations with new rights to establish
mining, timber or other natural resource-exploiting investments. The MAI could be used to overcome
moratoria on such destructive activities. The planet simply cannot afford to be bound by the MAI's rules
for twenty years.


Despite important gains over the past few decades, women continue to suffer discrimination worldwide,
with women of color and poor women most affected. In 1995, nearly one quarter (24 percent) of all
women in the U.S. lived below the poverty line, as compared to 18 percent of men. Also in the U.S.,
women's wages still average only 70 percent of men's pay.
Policies designed to address women's poverty and inequality would be directly attacked by the MAI.
Here's how:

Performance requirements, such as requiring equal pay for equal work and laws requiring that a
certain percentage of employees be women, would be forbidden under the MAI.
The MAI's national treatment provision means that any subsidies, aid, credit programs or grants
targeted to women could be considered discriminatory unless such benefits are also offered to
foreign investors.
This could deal a serious blow to women-owned businesses in the U.S. and worldwide, including those
supported by micro-enterprise programs that enable poor women, particularly former welfare recipients,
to become self sufficient. Already, women-owned businesses in the U.S. are discriminated against in
credit markets and in procurement contracts, despite the fact that they are the fastest growing sector of
the U.S. small business community and employ large numbers of workers. Women's access to and
control over productive resources would be reduced, not increased, by the MAI.
Small and women-owned businesses would be forced into unfair and unwinnable competition with
giant foreign corporations because of the MAI's overall goal of boosting the capacity of those
corporations to compete in local markets.
The MAI would hurt all labor unions, but would particularly undermine union women who are
playing an increasingly active role in unions. Good wages, benefits for themselves and their
families, and job security are particularly critical for women, who are concentrated in the service
sector, with its low wages and poor benefits, and in industries with high health hazards and
exploitative working conditions, such as garments and chicken processing. New welfare laws are
increasing the number of low-skilled women entering these jobs.



A fundamental objective of the MAI is to erect a firewall between economic and social policy. Many
multinational corporations vehemently oppose the use of economic sanctions to force compliance with
human rights, labor and environmental standards that might affect their bottom line. Nor do they want to
be held directly accountable for their business relationships with governments that systematically violate
these standards.

The MAI would not allow the Massachusetts law that says no government agency may purchase
from a company that does business in Burma or any similar law aimed at restricting government
purchases that violate human rights.
Had the MAI been in effect during the 1980s and early 1990s, many of the investment sanctions
aimed at abolishing apartheid in South Africa would have been forbidden. Nelson Mandela might
still be in prison.

In response to Royal Dutch/Shell's environmental destruction and link to murders of activists in
Oganiland Nigeria, some U.S. communities created "Shell-free" zones that banned investment by
Royal Dutch/Shell and its subsidiaries. This would have violated the MAI's requirement that all
countries receive "most favored nation" treatment.
More recently, some states in the U.S. announced that they will divest from Swiss banks to protest
the World War II collaboration between Swiss financial institutions and the Nazis. Under the MAI's
twisted value system, commercial interests are more important than human rights, and so such a
censure would be out of bounds.


The MAI is the final pillar of a system designed to promote unregulated economic globalization, where
values of the marketplace have precedence over values of social and economic justice.
The goal of the MAI is to eliminate policies that countries, especially developing countries, use to protect
and direct their own resources for the benefit of their own economies. These include laws regulating the
movement of capital across their borders. Chile, for instance, requires investors to stay in certain
high-risk portfolios for at least six months, as a means of slowing speculation and encouraging investment
in productive activities. This law would stand in direct conflict with the MAI.

Investors and OECD member nations want to take the right to enact such policies away from developing
countries. This is why negotiations were moved from the World Trade Organization, to which
developing countries belong -- and where they had blocked earlier attempts to pass an MAI-like
agreement -- to the OECD, where they are excluded. If and when the new rules are set, developing
countries will be told to sign on the dotted line or lose needed foreign investment.
This is a direct assault on the economic, social and democratic rights of citizens in non-OECD countries.
It is not new. In fact, the MAI locks in place many of the economic policies that the IMF and the World
Bank have imposed on over 90 countries in the past 15 years. Such harsh policies underlie international
trade pacts like WTO and NAFTA.

Just like these other agreements, the MAI would benefit investors over workers, corporations over
nations, the North over the South, the well-to-do over the poor, men over women, short-term profit and
efficiency over long-term social and environmental sustainability, and free markets over free people.


In a February 1998 letter to the OECD, over 600 civil society organizations from 68 countries declared
their opposition to the MAI, citing the negative impacts of the agreement. They noted that the MAI
conflicts with many widely-ratified international treaties supporting human, social and cultural, economic
and political rights of men, women and children.
But they also agreed that international investments require regulation, given the scale of economic
instability and social and environmental disruption created by the increasing mobility of capital.
So, if not the MAI, then what? The answer is quite simple. We need an investment agreement that is
fashioned with full citizen participation and approval. We want an agreement that makes people's
economic, environmental and social priorities the tail that wags the global investment dog. And we want
an agreement that holds multinational corporations and investors accountable to these citizen-defined
Such an agreement would be far different from the MAI, which promotes corporate greed disguised as
investor rights.
Among the demands made by the 600-plus citizen's groups are that the OECD and its member countries
take the following actions:

1.Immediately suspend negotiations, and undertake, with meaningful public input and participation,
an independent and comprehensive assessment of the social, environmental, and development
impact of the MAI.

2.Require, in any final investment agreement, that multinational investors be made to observe binding
agreements incorporating environment, labor, health, safety and human rights standards to ensure
that they do not use the MAI to exploit weak regulatory regimes.

3.Eliminate the investor/state dispute resolution mechanism and put into place democratic and
transparent mechanisms that ensure that civil society, including local and indigenous peoples, gain
new powers to hold investors accountable.

4.Eliminate the MAI's expropriation provision so that investors are not granted compensation for a
vague, broad notion of regulatory takings. Governments must ensure that they do not have to pay
for the right to set environmental, labor, health and safety standards, even if compliance with such
regulations imposes significant financial obligations on investors.

5.Open the negotiation process to citizens, which will require, among other things, timely public
release of draft texts and country positions and the scheduling of open public meetings and hearings
in member and nonmember countries.

6.Broaden government representation at negotiations beyond state, commerce and finance agencies
to a broader range of government agencies, ministries and parliamentary committees. (For instance,
health, education, economic development, women's, labor, and environment agencies and

7.Make provisions for a country's rapid withdrawal from the MAI when it deems this to be in the
best interest of its citizens.


Now is the time to stop the MAI and send a message to policymakers that we will not allow our
democracy - and our right to shape the global economic policies that affect us - to be sold to the highest
corporate bidder. Now is the time to stand with men and women around the world as they fight for the
same rights. By standing together we can win!

Now is the time to:




Contact the following organizations for more information about how you can get involved:
Alliance for Democracy: David Lewit, 617-266-8687 <> or Ruth Caplan
Democratic Socialists of America: Chris Riddiough 202-726-0745 <criddiough@dsausa>
Friends of the Earth: Andrea Durbin <> or Mark Vallianatos <>
Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch: Chantell Taylor, 202-546-4996, x303 <>
Sierra Club: Dan Seligman, 202-675-2387<>
50 Years Is Enough: Lisa McGowan, 202-879-3187 <>

Written materials:
The Multilateral Agreement on Investment and the Threat to American Freedom, by Tony Clarke and
Maude Barlow, Stoddart Publishers, Canada, March 1998, $9.95. Distributed in the USA by The Apex
Press (800-316-APEX)
Multilateral Agreement on Investment: Potential Effects on State & Local Government, Western
Governors' Association, April 1997

MAI websites:
Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. Wealth of information including complete MAI text.
Friends of the Earth - US. Information includes potential environmental impacts.
Preamble Center for Public Policy. In-depth analysis of agreement.
Island Centre for Community Initiatives and National Centre for Sustainability in Canada. Articles,
updates, pros & cons, good links.
Ontario Public Interest Research Group. Good information on what is happening.



G. (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) ist eine Sonderorganisation der UNO, die die Rahmenbedingungen des Welthandels festlegt. Erklärtes Ziel ist es, durch Abbau von Handelshemmnissen den Welthandel zu fördern.
Als bedeutsamste Handelshemmnisse wurden 1990 vom G. Subventionen und sog. freiwillige Selbstbeschränkungsabkommen und technische Vorschriften in den Bereichen Agrargüter, Textilien, Stahl- und Elektronikprodukte beurteilt.
Obwohl Umweltaspekte wie auch Interessen der Dritten Welt über G.-Verhandlungen bei der Organisation des Welthandels Bedeutung erlangen könnten und sollten, orientieren sich die G.-Regelungen bislang zu eng an der Idee des Freihandels. Dadurch treten immer wieder Konflikte auf, wenn z.B. ein Import-Verbot eines einzelnen Landes oder etwa der EG aus Verbaucher-, Tierschutz- oder Umweltgründen erlassen wird.
Ein Beispiel für diese Problematik ist das sog. G.-Thunfischurteil: auf Druck der amerikanischen Umweltschützer hatte der Senat der USA das sog. "Marine Mammal Protection Act" ein Embargo gegenüber Thunfisch-Importen aus Schleppnetzfischerei, bei der Delphine mit abgeschlachtet werden, beschlossen (Fischerei). Daraufhin hat das von dem Embargo betroffene Mexiko die USA beim Schiedsgericht der G. angeklagt und Recht zugesprochen bekommen. Das Embargo stellt nach Auffassung des Schiedsgerichtes ein nicht zulässiges Handelshemmniss dar. Dieses Urteil ist für die internationale und nationale Umweltgesetzgebung außerordentlich weitreichend und grundsätzlich. G. ermöglicht somit durch die Hintertür, nationale Umweltgesetze zu Fall zu bringen.
Die Widersprüche zwischen G.-Regelungen und Umweltschutz treten, wie inzwischen auch Weltbank, OECD und nationale Regierungen einsehen, immer deutlicher zutage.

aus: Umweltlexikon -