"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....O hina 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 China's 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
--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 China's 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 China's membership in the WTO could increase
respect for human rights, but only if it is combined with consistent external pressure.
China's commitment to abide by global trading standards will not automatically yield
a greater commitment to international human rights standards unless China's 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 China's 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
Anyone who is opposed to the Chinese joining the WTO needs to be reminded that
the United States' own economic system is not a paragon of virtue, and has aspects
of the system of a rogue nation. We have prison labor and sweat shops. And many WTO
members--including democratic countries like India--have child labor. Maybe some
WTO members are offended by the quasi-slavery conditions faced by many farm workers
in parts of the United States. A member country could say that U.S. law that makes
it possible to execute a teenager is an offense against humanity.
Of course it is appropriate to castigate China for accepting only those human
rights that suit its political and economic interests. Different cultures might nurture
different values, but the UDHR was drafted 50 years ago to reflect universal aspirations
and standards for human dignity. But the U.S. conditions placed on China amount to
a policy of moral imperialism, clearly framed to suit rich countries. They would
result in a ban on child labor without any guarantee that parents could find jobs,
but inhuman treatment of migrant farmworkers would not be affected. Many of the developing
nations that belong to the WTO complain that the previous Uruguay Round of trade
talks (1986-94) only yielded benefits for industrialized countries. Mostly they are
right. Northern countries have continued to protect their home markets while dumping
surplus production on the poorer southern countries, undercutting local production
and driving unemployment higher.
Today we need to point the finger at trade agreements such as the WTO and NAFTA
rather than at China. Let's not forget that NAFTA eliminated over 400,000 jobs in
the U.S., and drove some 28,000 small enterprises in Mexico out of business. The
WTO and NAFTA are a direct cause of unemployment and poor working conditions, not
the tool to correct these problems.
The time has come to step back from this mania for free trade at any cost--and
the selective bashing of some countries while turning a blind eye to others--and
seek a new start. The bottom line is that ... the WTO is bad for people everywhere,
whether they are Chinese, American, Mexican or Indian. It's not China joining the
WTO that hurts American workers--it is the WTO itself.
The Progressive Response aims to provide timely analysis and opinion about U.S.
foreign policy issues. The content does not necessarily reflect the institutional
positions of either the Interhemispheric Resource Center or the Institute for Policy