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Sender: o-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Fri, 13 Dec 96 22:11:11 CST
From: Mike Dolan <mdolan@citizen.org>
Subject: U.S. Caves on Worker Rights at the WTO
Article: 2372

TO: Trade Allies
FR: Lori Wallach, Global Trade Watch

"Happy" Friday the 13th -- the Day Bill "NAFTA-czar" Daley Was Announced Likely Commerce Secretary

From Lori Wallach, Global Trade Watch, 13 December 1996

The news coming out of the Singapore WTO Ministerial Meeting is bad news. Current media accounts are mentioning how the U.S. rammed through its priority technology trade plan, but also ultimately capitulated on labor standards. Despite yeoman's efforts by our labor allies, the bottom line on labor rights for the WTO Singapore declaration is:

  • NO LABOR WORKING GROUP: The U.S. did not even get its initial request for a working group on the relationship between labor standards and trade on the table. (Which in a perverse way may not be entirely bad given that the parallel WTO working group on environment has turned into an operation for identifying and eliminating green policies that inhibit trade and considerable work has been required to halt its most egregious proposals.)
  • NO "HOLD HARMLESS" PROVISIONS FOR ILO: ICFTU (the international confederation of national trade union federations such as AFL-CIO) certainly got nowhere with its "social clause" proposal for core International Labor Organization standards to trump conflicting WTO terms.
  • NOT EVEN A WTO STUDY ON LABOR ISSUES: The recent U.S. endgame "compromise" of requesting a WTO study on labor standards and trade was also rejected.
  • BAD NEW LANGUAGE ON LABOR: While the U.S. advocated that labor standards be considered at WTO, industry and major developing countries have strongly pushed for labor issues to be only at the ILO (with weak enforcement capacity, unlike WTO.) The Singapore statement supports this ILO-is-the-place position, among other unfortunate things.

A Wall Street Journal article, says the Administration's WTO labor rights push was a "ploy" to get labor support for fast track to expand NAFTA and the WTO, given the uphill fight fast track, NAFTA expansion and other trade plans could otherwise face. If there was any truth to this article in the first place, the ugly outcome at Singapore -- particularly the juxtaposition of the labor rights disaster versus the technology pact being pushed through -- has one bright side:

Even if the Administration wanted to pursue this strategy and it could have found labor leaders so inclined, after this Singapore labor rights debacle, the Administration is revealed not to have pushed all so hard or like the technology deal, it would have happened. Thus, even if anyone in labor was inclined to cut some such deal, there is not one iota of cover to do so.

FYI: The Teamsters issued a statement making clear their fast track opposition is (and will remain) solid.