NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

WTO Delegates From Poor Countries Oppose Protesters

December 2, 1999

It is a paradox. Demonstrators at the Seattle World Trade Organization conference say they want to help developing countries. But representatives of those countries are fighting against what the protesters want.

  • The protesters are demanding higher labor and environmental standards for poor countries, along with greater protection for U.S. workers from foreign competition.
  • Representatives of poor nations do not want labor and environmental standards to be linked to the right to compete in U.S. markets.
  • As a Pakistani delegate pointed out: "How could you have minimum wage of $4 for workers in Bangladesh? It's not even 20 cents there."
  • The prospect of labor and environmental standards terrifies delegates from poor countries, who fear that they would take away their ability to lure foreign investment and foreign dollars.

Even some U.S. officials were reportedly greatly disturbed by President Clinton's siding with the objectives of the protesters. They fear his statements will make negotiations even more difficult.

Political observers wonder whether the expressions of anti-trade and anti-globalization sentiment represent a revival of the radical left. Others doubt it, citing polls that show that only about one-third of Americans view international trade as hurting the U.S. Interestingly, polls show there is almost no difference of opinion over trade between union and nonunion households, despite organized labor's high-profile presence in Seattle.

Source: Helene Cooper, "Poorer Countries Are Demonstrators' Strongest Critics," Wall Street Journal, December 2, 1999.


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