The Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) was a proposed international treaty that aimed to promote foreign investment by creating a set of rules governing the treatment of multinational corporations by host countries. The agreement failed to materialize, and this article delves into the reasons behind the failure of the MAI.

1. Lack of Transparency

One of the primary reasons why the MAI failed to gain traction was a lack of transparency. The negotiations were carried out in secret, without any public participation or consultation. This lack of transparency raised concerns among civil society groups and other stakeholders, who felt that the agreement would serve the interests of multinational corporations at the expense of developing countries.

2. Opposition from Developing Countries

Developing countries, in particular, were opposed to the MAI. They argued that it would undermine their policy space, limit their ability to regulate investment, and lead to a “race to the bottom” in environmental and social standards. They also felt that the agreement would give too many privileges to multinational corporations, making it harder for local businesses to compete.

3. Campaigns by Civil Society Groups

Civil society groups played a critical role in opposing the MAI. They organized campaigns and protests, raised awareness about the potential impact of the agreement, and mobilized public opinion against it. These groups argued that the MAI would benefit multinational corporations at the expense of workers, communities, and the environment.

4. Lack of Political Will

Another factor that contributed to the failure of the MAI was a lack of political will. Many governments, particularly in developing countries, were not willing to accept the terms of the agreement. They felt that the agreement would limit their policy options and damage their economies. There was also a lack of political will among developed countries, particularly the United States, which did not support the agreement.

5. Complexity of the Agreement

The MAI was a complex agreement that covered a range of issues, including investment, intellectual property rights, and dispute resolution. The complexity of the agreement made it difficult for negotiators to reach a consensus. In addition, the agreement was drafted in legalistic language, which made it difficult for non-experts to understand.


In conclusion, the failure of the MAI can be attributed to a range of factors, including a lack of transparency, opposition from developing countries, campaigns by civil society groups, a lack of political will, and the complexity of the agreement. While the MAI did not materialize, it raised important questions about the role of multinational corporations and the need for a more equitable system of global governance.