more from John Sweeney on the WTO

Tony Tracy tony at
Mon Nov 1 02:53:55 MST 1999

More from Sweeney, in which he makes the rather odd statement that
Clinton & his government are "devoting significant resources and a
much higher priority to raising workers' rights concerns at the WTO".

  - tony


TO:   AFL-CIO Executive Council Members and National Union Presidents
FR:   John J. Sweeney
DT:   October 28, 1999

I want to make sure you have a copy of a recent letter from the
Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN) to
President Clinton that is being widely mis-reported, due in no small
part to hard work by the Chamber of Commerce.  I urge caution in
dealing with the press at a time when so many of our opponents are
working to twist this; George Becker was flagrantly misquoted in
today's USA Today.

Jay Mazur, Lenore Miller and I serve on the ACTPN, along with about
30 CEOs, business representatives and others. After participating in
an extended series of discussions with business members of ACTPN
(with significant national union staff consultation), Jay and I
thought it was important to get what is unprecedented business
support for a discussion of workers' rights at the WTO on the record.
While this is at best a tiny installment on our long-range goals, it
is a sharp departure from previous business arguments that workers'
rights have no place at the WTO.  Lenore declined to sign the letter.

The letter, which was nearly derailed by intense last-minute
corporate opposition, expresses "broad support" for the U.S.
negotiating agenda for the Seattle ministerial, but it also states
clearly that "all of our members are not in agreement on every
element of this agenda." The AFL-CIO supports some elements of the
U.S. agenda in Seattle: seeking to establish a working group on trade
and labor, taking steps to make the WTO more transparent and
accountable (including timely de-restriction of documents and opening
dispute settlement panels to the public), seeking to address
environmental problems, and clearly rejecting any efforts by other
WTO members to reopen the Antidumping Agreement. The AFL-CIO does not
support other elements of the U.S. agenda, such as efforts to open
new service sectors to international trade and major new negotiations
on market access in the absence of progress on workers' rights.

Our position on the WTO is the one that is expressed forcefully and
in some detail in Convention Resolution # 6, "New Rules for the
Global Economy," which was passed unanimously by the delegates in Los
Angeles.  A copy of the convention resolution is attached.

Our critique of the WTO and the world trading system is both broad
and deep, and our demands in Seattle are strong: we want the WTO to
incorporate enforceable rules protecting workers' rights and the
environment, to open up its operations to give workers and other
civil society representatives a meaningful voice, and to
significantly overhaul its rules on safeguard protections and the
overturning of legitimate national regulations on public health and
the environment. We have been very clear that we do not want the WTO
to initiate any new negotiations on investment, competition policy,
or government procurement (other than transparency-enhancing

We are taking immediate steps to rectify the confusion and
mischaracterization of the ACTPN letter. The attached press statement
is also being released today, and we have an aggressive plan to seek
a fuller understanding of our position by the media prior to Seattle.
Among other things, I will speak at a National Press Club luncheon on
November 19th.

I believe that getting the business community to agree to support a
working group on trade and labor is a significant accomplishment --
one made possible only by the hard work your unions and the
federation did together to defeat fast track twice in two years and
our continuing insistence that the interests of workers be addressed
in trade and investment negotiations. Significant elements of the
business community clearly recognize that there will be no forward
movement in any trade arena until they begin to address the
substantive concerns we in the labor community have raised so
successfully over the last decade.

Similarly, the Clinton Administration is devoting significant
resources and a much higher priority to raising workers' rights
concerns at the WTO this year. They do so only because they
understand that failure to address these concerns will guarantee
continued stalemate in trade policy. We continue to work closely with
national labor centers in other countries to coordinate pressure on
their governments, and we feel that momentum is on our side on the
workers' rights issues. Nonetheless, we face tremendous obstacles and
many hostile governments at the WTO, and that is why it seemed so
important to Jay and me to lock in the support of the business
community on the workers' rights agenda.

But our concerns go beyond workers' rights, and progress on workers'
rights will, even under the best of circumstances, be slow.  We have
redoubled our efforts to organize a massive mobilization in Seattle
on November 30, with your help. We now have 22 organizers on the
ground in Seattle, as well as a number of senior staff here in
Washington, working day and night to assure a strong labor turnout,
educate our members, and keep our message in the press.

We are working closely with union leaders from around the world, as
well as allies in the religious, environmental, and development
communities to ensure a broad-based, internationalist presence in
Seattle, one that will signal to the WTO, assorted trade ministers,
and our own government that our issues are not going away, that they
are shared by people all over the world, and that the current set of
global rules is simply unacceptable. We are confident that we will
have a great labor turnout on November 30th, and that the 20,000
voices joined around our demands will be yet another reminder of our
strength and determination.

I hope I can count on the enthusiastic support of you and your
members as we approach the Seattle ministerial.

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