City Says No to WTO

On Nov. 4, the Austin City Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing those provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) that would undermine the city's authority. "It sets in place the statement that city laws should not be preempted by these global powers," said Margaret Weston, a member of the Alliance for Democracy and co-author of the resolution.

The city resolution specifically opposes "provisions that undermine the city of Austin's authority to regulate within its jurisdiction, to decide how to use its public procurement dollars, to pass laws regarding environmental protection, fair labor practices, and extend benefits to encourage local economic development -- "

These types of resolutions, which establish what are known as MAI-Free Zones, came about during the fight against the MAI. They helped opponents establish a link between the MAI and its consequences on state laws and local ordinances.

The Austin resolution, sponsored by the Coalition for Fair Trade and co-sponsored by City Council Members Bill Spelman and Gus Garcia, is unique in that it specifically refers to the WTO and "similar global 'free-trade' agreements." Weston said one of the goals of the Austin resolution was to make public officials and citizens aware of the MAI and other issues coming up at the WTO meeting in Seattle.

Other cities and public entities that have passed similar resolutions include the Texas Democratic Executive Committee, King County (Seattle), Wash.; the Western Governors' Association; the National Association of Cities; the California Democratic Executive Board; Boulder, Colo.; Oakland; San Francisco; Berkeley; plus three cities in Canada and one in Japan.

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