Your Influence Counts ... Use It! The SPOTLIGHT by Liberty Lobby

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Bush, Gore 'Mostly Agree' On Globalization, Trade

More than anything, global corporations want "free trade" from the next president. They'll get their wish.

Above all, global corporations want one thing from the next president: "free trade," and the right to invest wherever they want without having to comply with pesky local laws and standards.

Al Gore has been one of the Clinton administration's most stalwart fighters for NAFTA, GATT, and now China trade. And George W. Bush is at least as enthusiastic.


In their 200-page policy paper, Pros perity for America's Families, Gore and vice presidential candidate Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieber man give a ringing endorsement of globalization, arguing that trade deals like NAFTA have created new jobs for Americans because of increased exports.

The Economic Policy Institute recently documented that while rising exports created about 4.1 million jobs, rising imports caused us to lose 7.3 million, for a net effect of 3.2 million jobs lost due to trade.

Of course, globalization has resulted in a lot more than the evaporation of a few million American jobs. Workers around the globe are being squeezed harder and forced to compete against one another for the opportunity to make a living. The Democrats do give our concerns a nod. Although they say that their "overarching aim... is to aggressively open markets," they also state that "all trade agreements should include provisions that will protect environmental and labor standards, as well as open markets in other countries."

Such provisions might give workers a focal point for organizing, but they can't undo the damage done by the trade agreements themselves. So says Cornell University's Kate Bronfenbrenner, who has just completed a report documenting how, in NAFTA's aftermath, employers have used plant closings, or just the threat of plant closings, to keep workers from organizing.

A trade agreement that included real teeth to enforce labor rights would help, says Bronfenbrenner. But even that wouldn't keep employers from effectively using hollow threats or implicit threats to intimidate vulnerable workers. When employers used such threats, Bronfen brenner found, workers usually voted against the union. Without the threats, workers voted union 51 percent of the time.


Bronfenbrenner's new report, commissioned by the U.S. Trade Deficit Review Commission, is available on the web at:

George W. Bush has no use for promises about labor and environmental standards. But he has lots to say about global trade.

Bush chided the Clinton administration for not pushing free trade hard enough. He pledges to secure fast-track authority (which would force Congress to pass or reject trade agreements without amendment). He says he will push for "free trade agreements with all the nations of Latin America," including Chile, Brazil, and Argentina, as well as Central American and Caribbean nations.

The ultimate goal, he says, is "free trade from northernmost Canada to the tip of Cape Horn."

Trade agreements like NAFTA and institutions like the World Trade Organ ization are the creatures of multinational corporations, designed to give them free reign of labor around the planet.

Goods produced under unfair labor conditions should not be allowed to enter the country. Companies that use child labor, suppress workers' right to organize, or fail to meet occupational safety and health or environmental standards should have their products seized at the border, and should be held financially liable for how their goods are produced.

Further, workers themselves should be empowered to investigate, present evidence, and petition to remove goods that are in violation.