good questions on the MAI/NAFTA etc.


Jan Slakov

Dear RN list,    Sept. 27

It is not easy to get "alternative" (anti-MAI, anti-militarist,
pro-democracy, etc.) candidates elected to represent us. But it is possible
to get through to some elected officials, even if they are not "alternative"
candidates. And in trying to reach them, we can help educate others too.

The "10 questions for parliamentarians" idea below gives an example of that.
Ralph Nader used a similar tactic in the US with a very interesting result,
as you will see below:

all the best, Jan
Date:          Thu, 24 Sep 1998 09:37:33 +0100
To:            •••@••.•••
From:          •••@••.••• (Katharine Ainger)
Subject:       10 questions to pose to parliamentarians

Forgive me if I am repeating - I am new to this list.  I was at the UK
Anti-MAI Coalition conference  Saturday 19th where we were discussing
resistance strategies.

The instance came up of Ralph Nader offering 10 000 dollars to any US
member of Congress who could prove they had read the NAFTA (oops- or was it
GATT?!) text in full by answering 10 questions on it correctly. (For those
who don't know the story - finally a Republican came forward, answered the
questions, claimed the money, and commented, "If I'd read the text in full
before I voted, I would have voted 'no'.") I was wondering whether anyone
has devised a similar 10 questions for MAI that could be applied to members
of any national legislature?

Please email me ASAP if so as plans are afoot to co-ordinate more
objections and protests before the negotiations begin again in October.

If there aren't 10 questions that people all over the world could ask their
elected representatives, I'd like to suggest we come up with some.

Reply from Jan:

Dear Katherine,

Here are the details from _Fellowship_ magazine (July/Aug. 1997 issue):

"In 1994, Ralph Nader and Lori Wallach offered a $10,000 donation to charity
on behalf of any member of Congress who would actually read the text of teh
Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and answer a few simple
questions about it. Only Republican Senator Hank Brown accepted. After
finally sitting down and reading GAtt (apparently a rare activity among
legislators), he changed his mind and voted against it. -- _The Case Against
the Global Economy and for a Turn to the Local_, Jerry Mander and Edward
Goldmith, editors, Sierra Club books, 1996"

(To find out more about the Fellowship of Reconciliation:
Here is the reply from Janet Eaton, a widely respected educator and systemic
change advocate:

From: "Janet M. Eaton" <•••@••.•••>
Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998 07:47:45 +0000
Subject: (Fwd) Re: 10 questions to pose to parliamentarians

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
From:          "Janet M. Eaton" <•••@••.•••>
To:            •••@••.••• (Katharine Ainger)
Date:          Fri, 25 Sep 1998 00:23:27 +0000
Subject:       Re: 10 questions to pose to parliamentarians
Cc:            •••@••.•••

Dear Katherine and mai-nots::

A heartfelt welcome  Katherine to the mai-not list.

I for one appreciate your foresight in getting in touch and I am also 
most interested in your suggestion about the 10 questions people all 
over the world could ask their representatives about the MAI. 

By coincidence just two days ago I set up a new file to record 
postings about incidences where elected reps were quoted as not 
having read the NAFTA, WTO and MAI documents etc. In it I recorded a 
quote from a July 29th Toronto Star  article by Dalton Camp entitled 
"We can thank free trade..." just reposted two days ago, September 
22,  by Janice Graham on this list serve.  In re-reading this article 
I came across the following  reference:

"When we come to think of it, the Canadian Parliament also voted in
favour of NAFTA. In doing so, it cut off its own head. Which brings to
mind John Crosbie, the then minister who sponsored the free trade
agreement before Parliament and who admitted he hadn't read it all. It
was a laugh; honourable members hadn't read it either. So, what the
hell, free trade promised cheaper imports, more exports, a stronger
dollar, and 500,000 new jobs"

So, Katherine, this leads me to two threads arising from the 
Ralph Nader story: 


The following are the questions posed for Members of Parliament by 
the Ontario Public   Interest Research Group in their MAI-not ! 
Project as found at their website. 

1. Have you read the draft MAI text? 
2. How else are you informing yourself? 
3. What is your position on the MAI? 
4. How are you informing your constituents?
A survey using these questions showed  that the NDP were  
informing themselves on the MAI and Financial Services Agreement 
(FSA), but that most Liberals and other MPs never answered; only 25 
of 300 responded.  They learned that MPs felt more pressure to answer 
if their constituents send the survey, rather than non-constituent 
citizens groups like OPIRG. They  decided that in future, with 
cross-country organization, they could use this survey to expose such 
MP incompetence and deception, and further discredit the parties 
which support the MAI. 

MAI- not activists in New Zealand also picked up and used the 
questions with similar results. 

 Another useful question which Canadian mai-nots have used in the  
campaign  against the MAI is "Who benefits from the MAI? ". This 
latter question allows for a litany of statistics to be brought forth 
which counter the neo-liberal mantras of  globalization .   

Of course there are questions to ask which get at the heart of the 
MAI's  most egegious and dangerous aspects like rollback, 
standstill, national treatment and most favored nation status, 
performance requirements, the means of investor -state dispute 
resolution and investment protection. 

And another  useful insight also from the mai-not website which seems 
relevant to a 10 Question campaign is as follows :

Why are so many politicians deceiving us? 
"Authorities by nature condition people to blindly trust them. We
protest when they predictably betray us, but the deception continues
to grow because we fail to expect them to report their intentions or
meet certain standards of performance. The consequence is a treadmill:
more and more politicians rarely answer our questions because we don't
expect it, and because it might affect their careers. Our response is
to "hold them to account" to force valid answers on the MAI. Some
scientists have noticed this pervasive conditioning to "trust the
experts." They have drafted the 'precautionary principle' that it's 
our duty not to wait for scientific proof to oppose the MAI or any
proposal where harm may result. Proponents must publicly state the
MAI's alleged benefits and hazards, so that the public may challenge
their validity. "

2) Also let's continue to collect stories which exemplify the 
irresponsible behaviour of elected representatives who fail 
to read carefully documents like  NAFTA and the MAI -treaty.  

As I mentioned above I have  started a file on this and 
if others find anything or have personal anecdotes and post it to 
mai-not we will have a mai-not archival URL for each posting and 
could put together annotated references.  

Perhaps it would serve as a reminder to elected representatives  
that such irresponsible behaviour is no longer acceptable now 
that we have come to recognize that the very future of  humanity and 
our planet is at stake. They need to know that we no longer 
entrust the negotiation of  our future to a few elected officials  at 
the top,  let alone ones who have not even read the documents which 
are presently defining a future bereft of conscience, humane 
principles and our democratic traditions. 

And perhaps it will remind us that we also need to become  active  
citizens  in this new global arena - citizens who understand the 
principles of participatory democracy and who will ensure through 
our  active participation that these principles are enshrined in any 
documents which shape our global future. 

And let us use these files and 10 questions to remind politicians, 
the media  and  citizens all over the world how the future 
of civilization was highjacked by an agenda driven by dictates of the 
free market and its proponents while the governments of 29 
priviledged nations,  in a prolonged but hopefully not yet terminal  
state of amnesia,  lost control of the rudders of state. . 

There seems to be hope in the words of British Prime Minister, Tony 
Blair,  speaking at the New York Stock exchange earlier this week 
about the need for  an overhauled global economic system which 
would  reflect input and concerns of more than the G7 nations and 
which would  demand a fundamental rethinking of our global 
institutions. [Hopefulness is of course tempered by awareness of the 
warnings of  Professor Michel Chossodovsky's  in his article  
entitled-Financial Warfare posted yesterday -on the mai-not list 

There also seems to be  some hope in the plethora of  commentators,  
 economists and economic advisors and editors reporting  in 
mainstream newspapers around  the  world during the past few weeks, 
who are recognizing that the global disorder which has emerged is 
directly attributable to the current global economic  policies and 
who are calling for alternatives. 

Finally as a Canadian I was hopeful as I listened from the 
gallery of Parliament to the words of  our Finance Minster, the 
Honorable Paul Martin, in his budget speech  -February 1998:

" ...globalization and technological change are a reality. 
They are not a religion. They are a fact. They are not a faith. We 
commit a very serious mistake if there  is no role, no responsibility 
on the part of government to provide  opportunity and security at 
home. In an era of great change , our core programs, our core 
institutions , our core values are more important than ever. They 
give Canadians the security and confidence they deserve. They equip 
the country to succeed. "                              

It seems to fly in the face of all this emerging insight into the 
perceived causes of the present disorder in the world today 
and the recognized need for alternatives -- that our world leaders  
should be forging ahead with  the MAI which has been touted, as we 
mai-nots well know,  as the third pillar in the currently 
advocated global system of  trade, finance and investment that we 
have come to know as the "global economy".  

So 10 Questions - yes ! Katherine !
Let's go for it !

All the very best,
Janet Eaton

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