Thank Heaven the Seattle meeting of the World Trade Organization
closed with absolutely nothing accomplished. Indeed, the delegates are
glad just to leave the city in one piece. As to when and where the next
meeting of this global bureaucracy will take place, no one knows for
sure. We’d all be better off — indeed the cause of free trade would be
better off — if it never met again.
What killed the meeting was not the protesters so much as the man who
finally let the regulatory cat out of the global-government bag: Bill
Clinton. In a slip of the tongue, he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
that the WTO should use sanctions to enforce U.S.-style labor
regulations around the world.
“Ultimately, I would favor a system in which sanctions would come for
violating any provision of a trade agreement,” Mr. Clinton said,
revealing the exoteric doctrine his administration has worked so hard to
keep under wraps. So much for the esoteric line that the administration
only supports a labor “working group.” The administration tried to back
off the comment later, but everyone knows that Clinton meant exactly
what he said.
Think of the implications of this labor-union dream come true. The
WTO would immediately become the enforcement arm of the U.S. Department
of Labor — or, worse, the International Labor Organization —
restricting trade with any country that doesn’t subsidize labor unions,
enact minimum-wage laws, mandate employment welfare, ban
“discrimination,” and otherwise gum up its labor market with every
manner of intervention.
Third World delegates immediately recognized what Clinton was up to:
He was endorsing all the key demands of the protesters, who want to see
trade “linked” to the expansion of the global welfare-regulatory state.
The delegates had long thought the U.S. had a secret plan to use the WTO
to enact global-government regulations to cripple their struggling
economies, but now they had proof.
Third World trade officials also recognized that this regulatory
mare’s nest would be the kiss of death, not only for their economies but
also for the world in general. New labor regulations, working together
with new environmental regulations, would consign a good part of the
“Those people outside are not talking for the developing world,”
Pakistani delegate Munir Ahmad said of the protesters. “They say they
want minimum wage for workers? How could you have a minimum wage of $4
for workers in Bangladesh? It’s not even 20 cents there.”
“If you start using trade as a lever to implement non-trade related
issues,” Youssef Boutros-Ghali of Egypt said, “that will be the end of
the multilateral trading system — maybe not this year, but in 10 to 15
“We will block consensus on every issue if the United States proposal
goes ahead,” the Pakistani trade minister told the Wall Street Journal.
“We will explode the meeting.”
Go, Pakistan, and the sooner, the better!
Why are union bosses so adamant about enforcing so-called worker
rights around the world, including the entire socialist agenda spelled
out in the charter of the International Labor Organization? Have John
Sweeney and Jimmy Hoffa decided to set aside their myopic greed for
higher union wages in the antiquated industries they dominate in order
to exercise their deep love for the poor of the world?
No chance. They intend to cripple developing economies just as these
countries are attracting record levels of investment. The unions want to
protect their cartel from competition, and plan to use world government
to do it. That’s why they hate genuine free trade, and why they place so
much hope in the WTO; they want it to become their tool, and Clinton is
in their back pocket.
No one with a conscience can support the international imposition of
“labor rights.” It would mean throwing millions of people out of work,
and entrenching misery in the poorest parts of the world. Why, moreover,
should Third World peoples have to subject their economies to the
control of the WTO, which is completely dominated by the large developed
nations? They must have the freedom to compete, and that means stopping
the WTO from wrecking their hopes and dreams for the future.
Interesting, isn’t it, that the Seattle protesters can profess to be
so “socially aware” and “progressive” even as they try to consign the
entire developing world to permanent poverty? In fact, the demonstrators
are nothing but shills for elite labor interests in this country, who
are concerned only about fattening their wallets at the expense of the
consumers and workers of the world. Workers of the world unite! —
against U.S. labor unions and the WTO.
It was especially sickening to see Clinton sign the much-vaunted
agreement against child labor. What happens to children in desperately
poor countries if they can’t work? They starve to death, join street
gangs, or sell themselves as prostitutes. With jobs, they have food and
clothes and shoes, and they can help their parents and siblings too.
Jobs bring self-respect, train them in civilized living, and give them a
future. With their jobs — call it child labor if you want — they have
God bless the companies that employ them, and the Americans,
Europeans, and Asians who buy their products. Curses on the whining
social reformers who would ban lifesaving child labor around the world,
and keep its products from our shores.
In the early stages of the WTO debate, it was common for
conservatives to worry that the WTO’s democratic voting mechanism would
permit the U.S. to be outvoted by the Third World, which represents a
majority of delegates. In retrospect this fear was entirely misplaced.
Indeed, we should cheer Third World delegates, because it is they who
stand between us and a global regulatory regime administered by the U.S.
Countries in the developing world have the right to retain their
sovereignty too. They have the right to conduct their affairs without
being dictated to by the likes of Sweeney, Hoffa, and all the rest of
the imperialist social planners, whether they were speaking in the halls
of the WTO or protesting on the streets.
That Pakistani trade official is right: The developing world should
explode what’s left of the WTO.