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The China-WTO Debate: Dissenting Voices within the United States.

The U.S. - China agreement has stirred heated discussion and much opposition in the United States among progressives from labor, human rights, and environmental organizations, China policy analysts and academics, and Chinese dissidents. The agreement has been endorsed by many foreign policy think tanks, most pro-business organizations in the United States, such multilateral entities as UNCTAD, and by a number of governments or blocks of governments, including Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Costa Rica, and the European Union.

Below are excerpts from statements issued by organizations or collected by the Foreign Policy In Focus project as critiques of James Nolt's Foreign Policy In Focus brief. These comments include a range from those who oppose China) admission because it will have negative effects within China, the U.S., and the WTO, to those who see the deal as a mixed bag with both positive and negative implications. Among the points of view missing here are the views of NGOs outside the United States, particularly those in the South.

"The attempt to bring China into the WTO ... is less likely to reform China, as its advocates claim, than it is to further deform the WTO. And it is more likely to detract from the WTO's already questionable legitimacy than to add to it.... The real debate is not ... whether to engage China, but what are the terms of that engagement, and whose values are to be represented.... America's working families understand the cruelty of a world economy regulated in favor of the corporations.... Over two-thirds oppose bringing China into the WTO without further progress on human rights and religious freedom.... Incorporating enforceable workers' rights, human rights and environmental protections in every U.S. trade and investment agreement is the right way; admitting a repressive China into the WTO is the wrong way."

--John Sweeney, President, AFL-CIO

"As a large and powerful country, China (like the United States) prefers bilateral approaches to problems where it can essentially bully smaller countries into submission. Bringing China into the WTO and its dispute resolution framework would be a very useful step forward.... [However,] entry into the WTO will inevitably hasten the privatization of state-run enterprises and will increase unemployment by a sizable margin. True, these enterprises are often inefficient, but they currently function as very important social welfare programs. It would be disastrous to dismantle these enterprises rapidly. It is not likely that foreign companies or foreign capital will be able to absorb all the unemployed. I also fear that Chinas environmental situation, which is precarious, will not benefit from WTO accession. The government has not revealed very strong Green tendencies, and the potential for being accused of erecting `non-tariff barriers to trade' will only make matters worse. In general, I think that WTO membership for China is inevitable and in some cases positive. But I think it is important to acknowledge the considerable problems associated with accession."

--John Feffer, American Friends Service Committee, Tokyo

"The U.S.-China deal will not be good for workers in either country. In China, it's predicted that tens of millions of people will lose their livelihoods, with virtually no safety net to fall back on. From a U.S. perspective, it's wrong to assume that expanded export markets and foreign investment opportunities in China for U.S. corporations will automatically benefit U.S. workers. Even conservative economists concede that rising inequality and the stagnation of U.S. wages during much of this decade can be attributed in large part to globalization, as corporations use their increased mobility to pit workers and communities against one another. The welfare of U.S. workers is linked to the welfare of workers around the world, and the welfare of developing country citizens depends on strong labor and environmental protections and development strategies that promote a rising standard of living for the average person, not just profits for corporations. Once China has WTO membership, the leverage to promote stronger human rights and environmental standards in that country is lost."

--Sarah Anderson, Global Economy project, Institute for Policy Studies

"The current framework for adding China to the WTO is the wrong framework. It is true that Chinas human rights record is not the worst among the WTO members. However, our conclusion is not that we must therefore add China to the WTO, but rather that we must continue to pursue a transformed WTO that (among other changes) would require adherence to internationally recognized human rights for all countries. In addition, we propose that any nation that wants to join the WTO should adhere to (or show they are taking steps to adhere to) internationally recognized labor and environmental rights. For current members, every two to three years there would be a review and countries that fail would be excluded from the WTO. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, for instance, has proposed a joint WTO/ILO Advisory Body be set up to oversee the implementation of a workers' rights clause. If a country was in breach of its obligations, the ILO report would make recommendations to the country and, if necessary, offer technical assistance and make additional resources available to help countries address the violations."

--John Cavanagh, Director, Institute for Policy Studies

"Human Rights Watch believes that Chinas membership in the WTO could increase respect for human rights, but only if it is combined with consistent external pressure. Chinas commitment to abide by global trading standards will not automatically yield a greater commitment to international human rights standards unless Chinas major trading partners insist on that connection.... [G]etting China to make concessions on human rights will require the kind of determined, hard-nosed bargaining by the administration that sealed the WTO agreement. It's now up to Congress to jump-start the process with human rights conditions on permanent NTR [Normal Trade Relations]."

--Mike Jendrzejczyk, Asia Division, Human Rights Watch

"Friends of the Earth opposes Chinas admission into the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Clinton-Gore Administration's deal to admit China into the WTO will block sorely-needed environmental and democratic reform of this global trade body, and show that the Administration's real trade priority is boosting corporate profits--not promoting democracy, environmental protection and human rights.... Since the WTO operates by consensus, one country can thwart reforms sought by others. We fear that China, with its anti-democratic government and history of human rights abuses, will take a leading role in blocking efforts to make the WTO more open and to address its effects on the environment and workers' rights."

--Brent Blackwelder, President, Friends of the Earth

"The only thing worse than the WTO as it is, is the WTO with China as a member, especially under the terms the Clinton administration signed. The few citizens groups who hoped WTO might be reformable are now saying that if China gets in, there is no hope WTO would become more sensitive to labor, environment, or human rights policies."

--Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch
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Publication:Foreign Policy in Focus
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 16, 1999
Previous Article:Toward a New Foreign Policy.
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