Mexico may veto multinational treaty

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The Independent Online

OECD Governments were last night on the verge of signing the first ever international agreement that would commit multinational companies to working towards the elimination of practices like the use of child labour and forced labour both directly and by their suppliers and customers, and also to improving their environmental standards.

OECD Governments were last night on the verge of signing the first ever international agreement that would commit multinational companies to working towards the elimination of practices like the use of child labour and forced labour both directly and by their suppliers and customers, and also to improving their environmental standards.

However, the deal, which would be legally binding, was under threat of a veto by Mexico, whose government fears it would scare away American investors in its maquiladora manufacturing belt. If ministers cannot reach a unanimous agreement today, a non-binding deal is likely to replace it.

Trade unions and campaigners were angered by the Mexican government's hardline stance. John Evans, of the trade unions' advisory committee at the OECD, said: "The behaviour of the Mexican government has been quite outrageous."

Intensive last-minute diplomacy to save the agreement was under way yesterday on the fringes of the ministerial meeting in Paris. The new guidelines for multinationals are the result of three years of painstaking negotiations after the collapse of the earlier draft Multilateral Agreement on Investment.

Activists played a role in killing off that treaty, in a campaign which prefigured later protests against the World Trade Organisation in Seattle, precisely because it did not incorporate labour or trade standards.The proposed guidelines being blocked by Mexico also require multinationals to embrace principles of customer protection, to maintain a high level of disclosure and transparency and to combat corruption.

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