The Way The NYTimes Sees It.......
John A. Quayle
blueoval at SGI.NET
Wed Dec 1 21:51:41 MST 1999
Senseless in Seattle
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
New York Times
December 1, 1999
Is there anything more ridiculous in the news today then the protests
against the World Trade Organization in Seattle? I doubt it.
These anti-W.T.O. protesters - who are a Noah's ark of flat-earth
advocates, protectionist trade unions and yuppies looking for their 1960's
fix - are protesting against the wrong target with the wrong tools. Here's
What unites the anti-W.T.O. crowd is their realization that we now
live in a world without walls. The cold-war system we just emerged from was
built around division and walls; the globalization system that we are now
built around integration and webs. In this new system, jobs, cultures,
environmental problems and labor standards can much more easily flow back
The ridiculous thing about the protesters is that they find fault with
this, and blame the W.T.O. The W.T.O. is not the cause of this world without
walls, it's the effect. The more countries trade with one another, the more
they need an institution to set the basic rules of trade, and that is all
the W.T.O. does. "Rules are a substitute for walls - when you don't have
walls you need more rules," notes the Council on Foreign Relations expert
Because some countries try to use their own rules to erect new walls
against trade, the W.T.O. adjudicates such cases. For instance, there was
the famous "Flipper vs. GATTzilla" dispute. (The W.T.O. used to be known as
GATT.) America has rules against catching tuna in nets that might also snare
dolphins; other countries don't, and those other countries took the U.S.
before a GATT tribunal and charged that our insistence on Flipper-free tuna
was a trade barrier. The anti-W.T.O. protesters extrapolate from such
narrow cases that the W.T.O. is going to become a Big Brother and tell us
how to live generally. Nonsense.
What's crazy is that the protesters want the W.T.O. to become
precisely what they accuse it of already being - a global government. They
want it to set more rules - their rules, which would impose our labor and
environmental standards on everyone else. I'm for such higher standards,
and over time the W.T.O. may be a vehicle to enforce them, but it's not the
main vehicle to achieve them. And they are certainly not going to be
achieved by putting up new trade walls.
Every country and company that has improved its labor, legal and
environmental standards has done so because of more global trade, more
integration, more Internet - not less. These are the best tools we have for
improving global governance.
Who is one of the top environmental advisers to DuPont today? Paul
Gilding, the former head of Greenpeace! How could that be? A DuPont official
told me that in the old days, if DuPont wanted to put a chemical factory in
a city, it knew it just had to persuade the local neighbors. "Now we have
six billion neighbors," said the DuPont official - meaning that DuPont
knows that in a world without walls if it wants to put up a chemical plant
in a country, every environmentalist is watching. And if that factory makes
even a tiny spill those environmentalists will put it on the World Wide Web
and soil DuPont's name from one end of the earth to the other.
I recently visited a Victoria's Secret garment factory in Sri Lanka
that, in terms of conditions, I would let my own daughters work in. Why
does it have such a high standard? Because anti-sweatshop activists have
started to mobilize enough consumers to impress Victoria's Secret that if
it doesn't get its shop standards up, consumers won't buy its goods. Sri
Lanka is about to pass new copyright laws, which Sri Lankan software
writers have been seeking for years to protect their own innovations. Why
the new law now? Because Microsoft told Sri Lanka it wouldn't sell its
products in a country with such weak intellectual property laws.
Hey, I want to save Flipper too. It's a question of how. If the
protesters in Seattle stopped yapping, they would realize that they have
been duped by knaves like Pat Buchanan - duped into thinking that power
lies with the W.T.O. It doesn't. There's never going to be a global
government to impose the rules the protesters want. But there can be better
global governance - on the environment, intellectual property and labor.
You achieve that not by adopting 1960's tactics in a Web-based world - not
by blocking trade, choking globalization or getting the W.T.O. to put up
more walls. That's a fool's errand.
You make a difference today by using globalization - by mobilizing
the power of trade, the power of the Internet and the power of consumers to
persuade, or embarrass, global corporations and nations to upgrade their
standards. You change the world when you get the big players to do the
right things for the wrong reasons. But that takes hard work -
coalition-building with companies and consumers, and follow-up. It's not as
much fun as a circus in Seattle.
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