8:47 AM Mar 4, 1996
MIA NEEDS DEEPER STUDY, SAYS UNCTAD OFFICIALKuala Lumpur 1 Mar (TWN) -- The proposal for a Multilateral Investment Agreement (MIA) needs a detailed examination of all sides of the issue so as to ensure the understanding of all countries, according to Mr. Roger Lawrence, the Deputy to the Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development. Lawrence is in Kuala Lumpur attending a conference on East Asian Development experiences, cosponsored by UNCTAD and Malaysia's Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS), and is part of a Japanese funded UNCTAD project. The European Union and its executive Commission has been pushing this proposal for a Multilateral Investment Agreement in the WTO, and the head of the WTO, Mr. Renato Ruggiero has been pushing the idea. However, a number of developing countries of Asia and non-governmental organizations of the South have come out in opposition to the idea. The Kuala Lumpur conference that Lawrence is attending has brought together here officials and academics from Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe and North America. Asia, Lawrence said, does not seem to be ready for an MIA proposed by the European Nations that would give foreign investors the right to invest in a country and to get equal rights as local businesses and investors. UNCTAD, he added, could not comment on the framework of an agreement -- "whether it should be voluntary or legally binding, or whether it should be negotiated in the World Trade Organization (WTO)". The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Lawrence said, was working on such an investment code and UNCTAD secretariat was closely following this. "But the implications of such an agreement for developing countries," Lawrence said, "are not sufficiently clear for us to have an opinion on what the best way forward is." The framework for the agreement, if there would be one, needs to be examined closely. The subject of the proposal agreement would be figuring prominently in future international discourses, Lawrence added. UNCTAD had organised two seminars in Geneva, attended by representatives of developing countries and former east European socialists, where the OECD representatives had explained the investment agreement idea, Lawrence noted. But there was a need to make all countries understand what they were getting into, Lawrence said. "This is what we think is important at this stage," he added.