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Write to the Guardian !

The following appears in todays Guardian. It relates to the
WTO, Clare Short and "trade sanctions" - but, as you'll see if
you read it, it provides plenty of scope for an anti-sanctions letter


P.S. People might like to use the following Clare Short quote which
appeared in the Financial Times on the 4th November :

"There is nothing noble about babies dying from simple illnesses and lack
of nourishment, women dying in childbirth, general malnourishment,
illiteracy and disease ..."

Protesters waging war against the poor, says Short 

Minister defends WTO's 'precious international' position while the first
hint of a campaign of sabotage emerges in Seattle 

By Andrew Marshall in Seattle 

30 November 1999 

Clare Short has attacked lobby groups which want to destroy the World
Trade Organisation (WTO) or disrupt its Seattle meeting, saying that they
are acting against the interests of developing countries. 

One of the subjects to be discussed is the use of global labour standards
to protect jobs in developed nations, an issue which seems likely to be
among the most divisive. But Ms Short, Secretary of State for
International Development, said that these had no role in trade policy.
"Many organisations that claim to be speaking for developed countries are
adopting positions that are against the interests of developing
countries," she said in Seattle, where the WTO is holding its ministerial
meeting. She called the WTO "a precious international institution". 

"Everybody agrees that we want to see an end to child labour," said Ms
Short. "But the suggestion that trade sanctions should be used to secure
these things would simply mean marginalising the poor countries for their

In a speech scheduled to be delivered later yesterday, she added that
"those who make blanket criticisms of the WTO are working against, not
for, the interests of the poor and powerless". 

The WTO ministers are meeting to produce an agenda for a three-year
negotiating round that will rewrite global trade rules. But many groups
are lobbying the summit, and some plan to disrupt its proceedings. They
argue that the WTO is a tool of Western capitalist oppression which
prevents countries from protecting their environment, undermines
sovereignty and fails to safeguard jobs. 

One of the most divisive issues is the introduction of new rules to make
sure all countries adhere to Western-style codes of labour protection.
Unions will lead massive protests today aimed at buttressing workers'
rights through the WTO, an idea backed by the United States and most of
the protesting groups but opposed by most developing nations. Without
this, America may find it hard to support a WTO agreement; with it, many
developing countries will oppose a deal. 

"The current system of global trade and investment rules has failed
miserably on many counts," said John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO,
America's umbrella union body in Seattle on Sunday. "It has weakened the
bargaining power of workers all over the world, has undermined legitimate
national regulations designed to protect the environment and public
health, and has exacerbated financial instability and growing inequality

Bill Jordan, general secretary of the International Confederation of Free
Trade Unions (ICFTU) and a former British trade union leader, said: "If
the ministers fail to act on what is an unmistakable demand from the
world's peoples, they could well this week have set in train the beginning
of the end of the WTO. 

Mike Moore, director-general of the WTO, attacked the "bitterness and
divisiveness of the current trade and labour debate," saying it was
"destructive and confusing". 

 making developing countries even poorer "Imposing trade sanctions  
 will not stop children being put to work. Or lift the living standards of
their families. Just the opposite. Poverty, not trade, is the main cause
of unacceptable working conditions and environmental degradation. And the
answer to poverty is more trade and business, not less," he said. 

Negotiations on the WTO round start today, with agriculture, labour
standards and protection of the environment likely to be the trickiest
issues, said Stephen Byers, Britain's Secretary of State for Trade and
Industry. "There's a big divide" between the "very hard" position of the
US on labour standards and other nations, he said. The EU supports a more
moderate stance on labour protection. 

The EU will be under heavy pressure to agree to further deep cuts in its
support for farmers and farm exports at the conference, but it says it has
flexibility in its position. "The EU is ready to negotiate on
agriculture," said Pascal Lamy, the EU's trade commissioner. But he said
Europe will oppose plans to treat agriculture like any other trade sector,
arguing that "producing food is not like producing other goods". 

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