This chapter traces the evolving relationship between multinational enterprises (MNEs) or transnational corporations (TNCs) and governments from the 1970s – when a protracted exercise under United Nations (UN) auspices to establish a code of conduct for MNEs was ultimately abandoned, through the 1980s when an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) initiative to establish a multilateral agreement on investments was likewise given up. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, and especially after the 2008 global financial crisis, the need for multilateral instruments to delineate boundaries and establish rules of engagement for MNEs and nation-states is once again apparent. What can be learned from earlier attempts to establish such rules? Has the time indeed come for promulgating some form of international accord concerning the entire gamut of nation-states’ relations with these enterprises?
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