- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 5, 2000

Just when President Clinton was hoping to legitimize their cause, protesters opposed to globalization smashed up another McDonald's last week in Davos, Switzerland. Vilifying McDonald's probably won't strike a chord with too many Americans and by doing so, the demonstrators have undermined their carefully orchestrated PR machine. Despite the demonstrators' self-destructive behavior, however, the progress of global trade talks is still threatened by a more powerful and kindred force.

Mr. Clinton's concern over Al Gore's presidential prospects has done more to stymie global trade negotiations than protesters' overt hostility. In fact, the White House and the anti-globalization protesters are linked by a significant factor. The groups that supported the bulk of protesters in Davos and in Seattle late last year labor and environmentalists help fund the Democratic Party.

In an indiscreet nod last year to the protesters and the groups that back them in Seattle, Mr. Clinton endorsed the use of trade sanctions to enforce labor and environmental standards worldwide. These comments drew much criticism and alienated leaders of the developing world, who rightly perceive the use of such sanctions as a protectionist mechanism. Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo spoke effectively for the emerging world when he said that the forces that are attempting to blight globalization are linked in "a common endeavor to save the people of developing countries from development."

In Davos at the World Economic Forum, which grouped together about 2,000 government, corporate and academic leaders for discussions about the global economy, Mr. Clinton didn't mention the sanctions regime he supported in Seattle. He spoke in general and rather Clintonesque terms about the virtue of international trade and the need to link that trade to labor and environmental standards. "No, trade must not be a race to the bottom, whether we're talking about child labor, basic working conditions or environmental protection. But turning away from trade would keep part of our global community forever on the bottom," said Mr. Clinton during his speech.

The problem is that Mr. Clinton has made quite clear in recent months he is willing to give globalization some lip service but won't take any constructive action on pushing forward the ongoing round of trade talks. During his speech, Mr. Clinton said "It is easier for us to gather here, in vigorous agreement and I'm glad you brought Mr. [Jack] Sweeney over so we could have an occasional disagreement."

The truth of the matter is that Mr. Clinton's entire speech seems to have been crafted for Mr. Sweeney, who leads the American Union Movement. In fact, Mr. Clinton appears to have shared his speech notes with Mr. Sweeney. On Sunday, the New York Times printed on op-ed piece by Mr. Sweeney that is uncannily similar to Mr. Clinton's speech extolling the virtues of globalization and the need to merge this force with labor and environmental standards.

This doesn't mean that the White House has failed to take action on trade. Just this week, the Clinton administration and delegates from 130 nations agreed on labeling and trade guidelines on genetically-modified food. The agreement stipulates that a country can bar the import of genetically-modified food even if there is a lack of scientific certainty that the food poses a health threat. It should go without saying that the White House should never have agreed to such a pact. Science, and not illogical frenzy, should be the only rationale for barring food imports. The agreement surely cheered the Seattle and Davos protesters, though many of whom are virulently opposed to genetically-modified food.

So, one is left to wonder what the demonstrators plan to destroy next time the WTO meets. What we can all hope, however, is that next time they strike, they will find a less sympathetic sitting U.S. president.

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