HC Deb 21 January 1999 vol 323 c1005
2. Fiona Mactaggart (Slough)

What discussions he has had with his international partners on the prospects for an international agreement on investment; and if he will make a statement. [65191]

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Brian Wilson)

Negotiations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development of a multilateral agreement on investment are no longer taking place. The United Kingdom and the European Union as a whole have called for investment to be on the agenda of a future round of negotiations in the World Trade Organisation. Decisions on the content of that agenda will be taken at the WTO ministerial meeting later this year. In the meantime, the UK is participating in the analytical work of the WTO trade and investment working group.

Fiona Mactaggart

Many people in my constituency who expressed concerns about the MAI process will be relieved at its collapse. They urge me to ensure that the future process is less deformed and takes better account of environmental, social and developmental issues in discussions on international investment. Will the Minister reassure me that a framework will be provided for future negotiations?

Mr. Wilson

I endorse my hon. Friend's comments. I came late to this issue, but there was no doubt that, from the outset, the perception arose that this was a multinational conspiracy, and that it was the developed world putting one over on the less-developed world. It does not matter about the accuracy of those perceptions, the fact that they were allowed to run made it extremely difficult to secure the agreement that was being sought.

We should start with a clean sheet of paper and seek to obtain an agreement on investment rules that serves both the developed and the less developed world. We must also make it clear from the outset that it must be done on the basis of consensus, and that it must take full account of environmental and social issues, such as conditions of employment.

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