|ON THE TABLE|
November 30, 1999
GWEN IFILL: We are joined from Seattle by Thomas Donohue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizens' Global Trade Watch, a nonprofit citizen research, lobbying, and litigation group; and here in Washington by Daniel Tarullo, professor at Georgetown University Law Center, and former assistant to President Clinton for international economic policy; and Kevin Kearns, president of the U.S. Business and Industry Council, a Washington research and lobbying group which represents some small and mid-sized businesses.
Mr. Donohue, we've been seeing all day about the protests which have been building in Seattle, and we wonder if they're getting all the play and there is something more important that's being overlooked.
|More trade wanted|
THOMAS DONOHUE: I think it's interesting to be in Seattle. Most of the protesters that I have seen personally, including the union organizations, are very orderly and they're about their business and they're carrying on their arguments. There are a group of thugs that are walking around the streets, crashing in windows and turning over paper stands and other things, and they ought to take those people off the street. I respect the position of unions and others to demonstrate, and it certainly will draw the attention of the people that are here doing the serious business of world trade.
GWEN IFILL: As the leader of the Chamber of Commerce, you obviously believe there's a greater good involved in the WTO. What's your point of view on that?
THOMAS DONOHUE: Well, it's a very simple issue that 96 percent of the people that we want to sell things to live outside the United States, and the great proportion of our economic growth has been tied to world trade. There are things that need to be improved, but it is very clear that the lives of people around the world and their freedoms have been improved and extended because of exchange and trade, and that the United States is benefiting every day from our position in the world economy, and we ought to do more of it and continue the benefits that are available for our citizens at every level of our society.
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Kearns,
you're obviously of the absolutely opposite point of view. You believe that we
should be pulling out of the WTO entirely. Why is that?
Absolutely opposite has turned out to be the case. The U.S. economy has been the world engine. It is our domestic economy, not our exports, that are driving growth in this country, and other countries have hitched their wagon to our star. The thought was we needed the WTO to open these big emerging markets, but in fact most of the people, the 96 percent of the world's population that lives outside the United States, doesn't have any money. They may be consumers in a theoretical sense, but practically they don't have the money to buy American products. So our point of view is that we want more trade, we want open trade, we want fair trade. The best way to accomplish that is not through an international bureaucracy, but simply by bilateral negotiations with other countries, and allowing them to have access to our market as long as we have free and fair access to their markets.
|Too much under the WTO umbrella|
GWEN IFILL: Ms. Wallach, you believe that there are many sticking points, including labor and environmental concerns and human rights concerns. What could happen to make this palatable for you and for Public Citizens'?
LORI WALLACH: Well, the World Trade Organization isn't free trade, which would be basically cutting barriers; it's 900 pages of one version of rules for the global economy. In some areas it cuts barriers, but some of those barriers are our domestic food safety or environmental laws. In other places, it adds new barriers. For instance, being from a consumer group, we're concerned about access to medicines, and the WTO adds restrictions on trade in medicines, and in a way that keeps the prices up.
So what we say is, this is managed trade, it's not free trade. But the rules are very lopsided, and it's really corporate managed trade, and the public interest is continually put under the goal of commerce. So, for instance, in five years at the WTO, there's a whole string of laws -- U.S. now has to accept Australian meat that's not government-inspected. It's "equivalent" under WTO; it's labeled USDA The U.S. Clean Air Act regulations were weakened after a WTO attack. The tuna/dolphin law that has kept the tuna fish in our country from being caught with dolphin-killing nets was ruled WTO illegal, and we gutted that law -- the Endangered Species Act. And those are just the U.S. laws. Around the world it's been a real-life record of unacceptable and unnecessary damage. We want global trade rules, but this WTO and its 18 different sets of agreements has got to get dramatically changed, or it has to go.
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Tarullo, is that part of the problem here, that there is too much trying to crowd under the WTO umbrella?
DANIEL TARULLO: I think that's exactly the problem. In your setup piece, David Sanger made reference to "old think" and "new think" about trade. One of the problems is that under the "old think" umbrella, a lot of issues were pushed into the WTO that are really not about taking down trade barriers at the border. They are, as Lori Wallach just said, about domestic regulation. And when you start to tell countries that here's how you must do your domestic regulation, and you're telling them that under the aegis of export-oriented interests, I think you're just setting yourself up for a big set of political problems. And that's what we've seen.
GWEN IFILL: What about, that Mr. Donohue? It sounds like a pretty insurmountable mishmash of different issues, all of which could cancel each other out.
THOMAS DONOHUE: Well, a lot of what I just listened to is a little bit like a fairy tale It's very clear that the WTO tries to establish standards and resolve disputes, but they do not and they cannot force any country to change its domestic rules. It is also a basic fact that the United States is the largest exporter in the world, and for every 20,000 -- for every $1 billion worth of exports, we create 20,000 American jobs.
The WTO is not a government. It has no authority over the United States, or for that matter any of its other 135 members. It is an organization that is trying to figure out a way to put rules of trade in place that are acceptable on a consensus basis and that lets Americans get a reduction in barriers around the world -- that's where we see the benefit -- and some order. When you talk about bringing the Chinese into WTO, there are a lot of benefits, but the biggest benefit is they're asked to run their trading operations under a set of agreements that 135 nations have sat down and said that generally they're going to try and operate under consensus.
There are problems with every trading system, but the bottom line is we're making significant advancement. We're the largest exporter in the world. We are increasing the standard of living of people all around the world by trading, and you know, I'm just not sure where all of this sort of fantasy comes from that we're changing everything and ruining everything in this country by dealing with the WTO. It is not a fact. We ought to get the facts a little straighter, and then we can find some common ground to resolve what we're here for. We're here to put together the next level of trading discussions. That's what we need to accomplish.
GWEN IFILL: Pardon me, but Mr. Tarullo here is champing at the bit to respond.
DANIEL TARULLO: Well, I'd just like to say that if it's about trade and tariff barriers, I don't have any quarrel with Mr. Donohue. But I think it's a little misleading to say that we're not asking anyone to change their domestic rules. Even though in a technical sense no one gives up sovereignty by joining the WTO, in a practical sense, you are, in negotiations, being asked to change your rules. Now, sometimes that's perfectly OK. But when you have conflicts between trade and non-trade values, such as whether a particular food safety regulation ought to be permitted, then inevitably a dispute settlement panel in Geneva is called upon to balance trade and non-trade considerations, and I think it's there the WTO gets into trouble.
Not breaking down quotas, not breaking down traditional tariffs, but in talking about food safety regulation and talking about health, endangered species regulation. There are a number of instances where nondiscriminatory regulations are being attacked by other countries as trade barriers, and I think it's there the WTO courts trouble for itself and undermines its own aim of promoting liberal trade.
|Managing the system|
|GWEN IFILL: Mr. Kearns, you
have said that part of your concern about this is that this is all about the political
and economic interests of the countries involved. What's wrong with that? |
KEVIN KEARNS: Well, it's a political and economic interest of various countries, sure. We have to live in a multi-polar world and mediate our way. But the fact of the matter is we did quite well up until four years ago when the WTO was created. We have had a globalized trading system, if you will, since the Portuguese rounded the southern cape in Africa. America itself is a result of an attempt to further expand the global trading system.
And as Lori Wallach has pointed out, the real question is how do we manage this system? Is the WTO the vehicle to manage this system, or are there better ways to manage this system? And I think it's -- Mr. Donohue seems to specialize in fantasy and know a lot about it. I think it's a utopian fantasy to think that the 133 members of the WTO are part of a global system in the sense that they have the same political values, economic values, cultural values. The Chinese certainly don't share many of our values. Allowing them to come into the WTO -- that in itself could destroy the WTO, because they simply have broken every major trade agreement they have signed in the last 20 years. There's no reasonable expectation they will abide by the so-called rules in the WTO.
GWEN IFILL: Ms. Wallach, how does one manage this?
LORI WALLACH: Well, what we have seen, and despite what Mr. Donohue said, the five-year record of what's actually happened is that a series of laws have been challenged under this system of rules and declared illegal trade barriers. The asbestos ban, it was treating domestic and foreign products alike. Why should the WTO, an unelected body, impose its choice that you can't ban asbestos? So that invasion of all these new areas is where the WTO needs to be drastically pruned back.
And my sense of what will happen -- and by the way, I think the reason why there are so many diverse protesters from all over the world and from all over the U.S. is people find the results of this deregulatory agenda attached to the trade rules as totally unacceptable. And so either the WTO is going to get drastically pruned back, more like the old GATT system, or alternatively it's going to get -- end up getting gutted. At some point, some big, important law, the ban on child labor -- which by the way is WTO-illegal -- is going to get challenged, and that's going to be the end of it. And the arrogance or the stubbornness of the people who are benefiting from this system of rules stands to blow up the whole thing. And we need global trade rules, but this WTO needs to be drastically pruned back, or it needs to be replaced.
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Donohue, one of the things that you have said seems to leave room for very little room for compromise on some of these things, which is to say labor and trade standards. You said the chance that the U.S. would tie trade and environment and labor standards to trade is that it won't happen even if "the U.S. stands on its head and spits wooden nickels." Where is there room for middle ground?
THOMAS DONOHUE: Unfortunately, Time magazine, with whom I spoke for a very long period of time, left out the first paragraph.
GWEN IFILL: Which is?
THOMAS DONOHUE: Which was that Mr. Sweeney and I had agreed on, through the action of the president's trade advisory group, to advance a new working group within the WTO which I am trying very hard to have accepted, which would be the 49th working group, and it would be to analyze the effects of trade on workers in the United States and workers around the world. But it would not be coupled to a particular trade negotiation. It would be a valuable and professional analysis of what trade on its own, global trade, was doing for workers here and around the world.
I said, however, following that, "but to expect that at this meeting that we would accept a coupled agreement where we wouldn't come to any understandings on trade until we had done this analysis, would not happen, and it wouldn't happen if we wanted it to happen, and I stood on my head and spit wooden nickels." And I really believe that it's unfortunate that, having made an agreement with labor, that a magazine that has been very pro-labor left out the first part of what I had to say.
GWEN IFILL: Well, I'll give you the last word on this if you can answer the same question that I just posed to Lori Wallach, was how can this be managed?
THOMAS DONOHUE: Well, I think the whole thing is it's a consensus arrangement. And I believe there are some things that have to be changed. I believe that the WTO, as it brings in other countries, as it sophisticates its work, we have to limit the things we spend time and energy on. One of the great concerns I have is in the E.U. -- they're setting up a series of obstructions, particularly to genetically altered agriculture and other issues with 75 million people more coming into the world every year to be fed. And I think they have to focus on these issues. I agree with some of the opponents that occasionally we get in to far too many extraneous issues. Let us focus on the matter of trade, but let us try and open up markets to the United States that have been closed in the past while our markets have been open to others.
GWEN IFILL: Thank you all very much.