- The Washington Times - Friday, April 14, 2000

Leaders of the embattled world trade agencies Thursday publicly clashed with protesters for the first time, insisting that free trade is the only proven way to lift millions of people out of abject poverty.

At separate appearances, Stanley Fischer, the acting director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and Michael Moore, director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), defended their agencies against protesters' charges that they are the cause of the problems from poverty to environmental degradation they seek to alleviate.

"All the evidence, all the evidence is that the best way to grow is to integrate with the global economy. We are not trying to keep poor countries down," Mr. Fischer said. "The policies that we're supporting are the ones that have been shown to work."

Mr. Fischer conceded that "the word globalization may be a problem," because of its increasingly negative connotations.

But, he said, "The process that it represents is the only way we are going to raise people around the world to the same level as people in industrialized countries."

He questioned whether many of the demonstrators in Washington this week to protest the IMF and World Bank were aware of the agencies' efforts to reduce poverty and promote higher growth and incomes in developing countries.

"We have to listen to the demonstrators," he said, but "we have the same goal, we have to reduce poverty."

Mr. Moore, appearing at the National Press Club, echoed those comments. As he spoke, several hundred protesters outside the building shouted, "WTO has got to go" and carried a large puppet depicting Mr. Moore and a banner representing an old-growth tree.

"Stop the war on the poor," they shouted. "Make the rich pay."

Mr. Moore said the protests, which began in December in Seattle where they derailed a new round of world trade talks, have thwarted efforts to open trade opportunities and improve the lot of the world's poorest countries.

He pointed to China's policies of greater openness and freer trade in the past 20 years, which he said were instrumental in lifting 120 million people out of extreme poverty.

"Never before in history has one country lifted so many of its people from poverty," he said. "Perhaps no country has better demonstrated the remarkable benefits that accrue to its citizens through enhanced trade than China."

China's bid to enter the WTO this year would hasten its integration into the world economy, help it develop the rule of law and strengthen market forces and contacts with the West, he said.

Despite opposition from thousands of labor union demonstrators on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Mr. Moore insisted that "America gives little out of this negotiation… . It is China that must make concessions."

He cited the deal's slashed tariffs on U.S. agricultural and industrial exports.

Mr. Moore warned protesters and members of Congress who would like to kill the trade agreement by voting against a bill to normalize trade relations with China, saying that could backfire.

"Should China be spurned, America faces risks as well. I need to tell you that regardless of how the U.S. Congress votes on permanent normal trade relations, China could enter the WTO," he said, and the United States would forfeit the benefits of the agreement.

"A sobering thought when you consider the potential business opportunities in a market of 1.3 billion people," he said.

Mr. Moore took a jab at the large, monied environmental groups that are vilifying his organization on the city's streets.

The agency's budget of $80 million a year is only one-third that of the World Wildlife Fund, he noted.

"Few organizations have been the subject of so much attention in so short a period of time. Much of that attention has been critical, some deservedly so, much of it undeserved," he said. "Much of that criticism melts away as people come to understand exactly what the WTO is and what it stands for."

The WTO does not violate nations' sovereignty because it is mostly a commercial court that arbitrates trade disputes between countries that have signed onto the trade agreements in dispute, he said.

Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers also came to the defense of the international institutions Thursday, telling a House panel that the protesters' prescription of limiting trade and development assistance for Third World countries would boomerang.

"There could be no strategy so certain to keep these countries impoverished as a strategy of seeking to deny them both routes to successful development," he said. "By any standard, these institutions provide exceptional value for the money. And through their policies and programs, they can and have had a tangible impact on millions of lives."

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