Clinton Sympathetic to WTO Protesters' Labor & Environmental

Tom Boland (
Wed, 1 Dec 1999 02:04:10 -0800 (PST)

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FWD  Reuters - 12:00 PM ET November 30, 1999


     By Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Clinton said on Tuesday he
sympathized with protesters at the World Trade Organization
meeting in Seattle and that trade agreements should take into
consideration labor and environmental concerns.

WTO ministers were meeting to set the agenda for a new round
of negotiations aimed at reducing trade barriers in sectors
ranging from agriculture to electronic commerce.

They have been met with mobs of protesters who believe free
trade has had a negative impact on U.S. jobs and the

So far protesters have attacked a fast-food restaurant, a
sporting goods store and dangled from a nine-story construction
crane near a busy highway to unfurl a banner accusing the WTO of
being anti-democratic.<P>
"I also strongly, strongly believe that we should open the
process up to all those people who are now demonstrating on the
outside. They ought to be a part of it," Clinton told reporters
in the Oval Office

"And I think we should strengthen the role and the interest
of labor and the environment in our trade negotiations," he
said. Clinton is scheduled to attend the WTO meeting on

Clinton acknowledged that addressing labor and environmental
concerns in trade talks was "not going to be easy" because
many developing countries see concerns about environment and
labor standards as a way to "keep them down."
About 30 percent of U.S. economic growth was due to expanded
trade, which has also helped keep U.S. inflation down -- "so,
we've had this huge growth with low inflation," Clinton said.

But he said he wanted to make sure that the economy was not
damaged by "trading rules that could put short-term economic
considerations over long-term environmental considerations."

"So I'm very sympathetic with a lot of the causes being
raised by all the people that are there demonstrating," Clinton

The president said he hoped the WTO meeting would launch a
new round of trade talks that would lead to a reduction in
tariffs and other trade barriers in agriculture and other areas.

"I hope that we will agree to keep e-commerce free of
unusual burdens," Clinton added.

"Since this has now become a global society with global
communications, as well as a global economy, I think it was
unrealistic to assume that for the next 50 years trade could be
like it's been for the last 50 -- primarily the province of
business executives and political leaders," Clinton said.

"More people are going to demand to be heard, and I think
that's a good thing," he said.

Labor Secretary Alexis Herman at the White House told
reporters the United States recognized the concerns of
developing countries on the issue of labor standards.

"We are very cognizant of their concern that anything that
we do with regard to labor standards would not be to the
detriment of a third world country, but I think increasingly we
all recognize that it's not just about free trade but it is
about fair trade as well," she said.

"We need new rules of the road and I am hopeful that the
work in Seattle will begin the groundbreaking work of laying out
what those new rules need to be for working families," Herman


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