Poverty, not trade, is
the main cause of bad working conditions, and it must be met by expanding commerce, not
imposing sanctions, World Trade Organization Director-General Mike Moore told
international trade unionists on 28 November.
Addressing the International
Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) conference on "Globalisation and
Workers Rights" in Seattle, Mr. Moore warned that "demonizing
globalization" deflects attention away from the needed solutions: promoting trade so
that it can lift workers in developing countries out of poverty, and tackling the mismatch
in developed countries where many workers lack the skills demanded by a new
conference was held on the eve of the WTOs Third Ministerial Conference which opens
in Seattle on 30 November.
this opportunity to speak. This is the second time in less than a year that a WTO
Director-General has been asked to address the ICFTU. In between, we have had increasing
contacts and exchanges at all levels of our organizations and many meetings, both
privately and socially, with your leaders and officials and some affiliates. This reflects
our mutual interests - and the importance of continuing our dialogue in the time ahead.
this job because I saw the WTO as a way of lifting living standards for working people
everywhere. I also believe that the WTO is fundamentally about international solidarity,
interdependence, breaking down barriers between people as well as economies. Prosperity
and peace - that to me is what the multilateral trading system can bring about.
never seen a contradiction between trade and labour because I don't believe one exists.
Open economies, imperfect as they are have delivered more jobs, opportunities and security
to more people than alternatives. Countries that have embraced openness and freedom have
increased the real incomes of their workers, which in turn has raised labour standards and
reduced poverty. Countries that remain closed, remain poorer, underdeveloped, cut off from
the world of rights and freedoms. If I made a contribution to my country it was to make
the case that trade is about jobs and income, taxable income, to pay for our dreams of
better health care and better education.
why I find the bitterness and divisiveness of the current trade and labour debate so
destructive and confusing. It is destructive because it is in many ways a false debate. It
is destructive because it obscures the underlying consensus that exists about the social
problems all countries face in this interconnected world, and the need for shared
want the same thing everywhere. Someone to love, somewhere to work, somewhere to live and
something to hope for.
supports slave labour? Or prison labour? Who wants their children in factories rather than
in school? Who among us is immune to the social and economic disruption of technological
change? None of us.
the 135 members of the WTO are also members of the ILO. We represent the same taxpayers,
the same governments, the same constituents. All of these governments have an interest in
improving their social and labour standards. There is a profound connection between
economic, political, social and industrial freedom and economic development. Indeed, there
is an argument that freedom is a basic pre-requisite for economic success.
membership signed up to the Singapore Declaration in 1996 committing them to core labour
standards, supporting the ILO, affirming that trade helps promote higher labour standards,
opposing the use of labour standards for protectionist purposes and agreeing that the
comparative advantage of countries - particularly low-wage developing countries - must in
no way be put into question. The ILO adopted the 1998 the Declaration on Fundamental
Principles and Rights at Work which endorsed the basic principles of freedom of
association, the right to collective bargaining, elimination of forced labour, effective
abolition of child labour, and elimination of discrimination in hiring and employment
practices. Just this year, the ILO agreed to prohibit the worst forms of child labour,
while recognizing that child labour is largely a function of poverty and that sustained
growth is key to eliminating its exploitative and harmful forms.
these governments are signatories to the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. These rights are not the property of one organization, one culture, or one
country, but of all people. There is a conceit that these are European or even American
rights. They are not. They are universal rights. No-one complained about globalization
when the Berlin Wall fell or South Africa was freed, or the Colonels returned to their
barracks and freedom rose. No. Men and women of conscience and commitment everywhere, from
the frontline in Poland and South Africa to the backline in my small green country, and I
suspect here in Seattle, marched in solidarity with oppressed people in South Africa and
Poland. It was trade unionists who stood as internationalists in solidarity for freedom
everywhere. Why? Because there were universal values at stake in all these places. Now
should we shrug off their needs for markets and jobs?
women of the labour movement, we must follow the Singapore mandate and ensure the WTO and
the ILO have a good working relationship. My predecessor, Renato Ruggiero, and I have had
regular contact with the head of the ILO. I have spoken to Juan Somavia and assured him
that I don't want his job. He assures me he doesn't want my job. This is, in part, because
there is no difference between us on the vital importance of advancing labour standards,
and the need to do so by persuasion, positive assistance, and get jobs and growth -
including growth through trade. The challenge is not for one organization to do the work
of all, but for all organizations to work together in a more coherent way. Whether
its the ILO, UNICEF, WHO, the World Bank, IMF, or the WTO, we need cohesion in
tackling these problems. No single Parliament or international institution can legislate
away all the evils of our planet or the miseries often made worse by bad governments. We
can't have clean air in one country alone, or organize our fisheries or even run a tax
system or an airline without the co-operation of others. But, together we can "inch
up" workers' and families' conditions.
our critics are wrong. We live in a time when we have never had so much but we've never
felt so insecure. One day companies announce their highest profits, and the next a
thousand layoffs. We can't find enough trained workers in sectors like high technology and
in cities like Seattle; but in other sectors and other regions, jobs are disappearing,
never to return. Even in the most dynamic economies like the United States we find large
parts of the work force losing ground or facing redundancy. Productivity is being
decoupled from employment - growth from redistribution. Both within and between nations
the gap is growing.
want answers. One answer we hear with growing insistence is that trade and globalization
are to blame. Globalism is becoming shorthand for everything we don't like about the world
as it is. About technology. About our fear of foreign workers taking our jobs. About
countries who don't play by the rules. Or about treaties, rules and agreements that limit
our own countries' freedom to act. This is understandable. From the agricultural
revolution to the industrial revolution through to the information revolution - every
great and historic period of economic transformation has been accompanied by uncertainty
about the future, disillusionment with leaders, and reaction to change. The current wave
of economic change is no exception. At the turn of the century, 80 per cent of the people
worked the land in my country, now less then 10 per cent , but we produce much more fibre
and food. If all you have is a pair of hands to sell in the information age, then your
future is limited.
dangers in this backlash to globalization, which we ignore at our peril. It is true that
the benefits of the global economy are not evenly shared, not enough can ever be spent on
health education or the elderly. It is right that sovereign Governments have this
responsibility for spending priorities, but the vulnerable are not helped by blocking
trade, restricting investment, and making economies poorer. Consider the statistics:
exports have grown by 51 per cent in the United States in the past six years, which has
accounted for more than a quarter of economic growth. Trade has contributed to almost 20
million new jobs - jobs which pay on average 25 per cent more than non trade-related jobs.
They show that trade is the ally of working people, not their enemy.
true for the advanced economies is true for developing economies as well. Imposing trade
sanctions - making developing countries even poorer - 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. The OECD
concludes that a new round of tariff liberalization would boost world economic output by 3
per cent - or over 1.2 trillion dollars - and that developing countries would benefit
most. India's GDP would grow by 9.6 per cent, China's by 5.5 per cent, sub-Saharan
Africa's by 3.7 per cent. As living standards improve, so too does education, health, the
environment, and labour standards. In open and democratic societies, people demand more.
Innovation needs freedom to flourish and in closed economies hope and growth perish.
danger in demonising globalization is that it deflects attention from the solutions we
need. The main problem faced by workers in the United States and elsewhere is not foreign
competition. It is the mismatch between the skills demanded by a new knowledge-based
economy, and the skills many workers now bring to the market. We need to "future
proof" our children - and their parents - through education, training and adjustment
assistance. Developing countries need more technical assistance, more help with capacity
building, and greater access to our markets. Fighting to protect the status quo might
provide temporary shelter. Protectionism can save jobs in the short term; at the cost of
investment in new jobs and then you end up with neither new nor old jobs. Who wants the
status quo in medicine when their child is sick? The status quo is just yesterday's
also a darker side to the backlash against globalization. For some, the attacks on
economic openness are part of a broader assault on internationalism - on foreigners,
immigration, a more pluralistic and integrated world. Anti-globalization becomes the
latest chapter in the age-old call to separatism, tribalism and racism - the
"them" versus "us" view of the world. When I was a young man the word
internationalism was a noble word. It was also a word that that had real meaning for
labour. We took to heart the old songs about international solidarity and the brotherhood
of man. But now the idea of internationalism has become something to be feared or
attacked. It concerns me that many of those who sincerely want a better and more just
world now find themselves aligned with those who stand against internationalism in all its
forms. I guess globalisation is the last "ism" to hate.
you will fight always for labour's interests. Governments come and go but labour always
marches on. Greenpeace will push environmental interests and the International Chamber of
Commerce will push business interests. Why shouldn't you? It is your duty. This is what
democracy is all about.
I am of
the first generation of New Zealanders who did not have to fight in a world war. We know
that the great depression caused the collapse of the world trading system because the
protectionists won then with the same arguments they use now. From that depression came
war and the twin tyrannies of our age, fascism and marxism. And the first people they
locked up were democratic trade unionists. If we learned anything from the destructive
first half of this century, it is that integration leads to economic growth,
interdependence and common shared values, which are in turn the building blocks of peace.
We need to reinvent the ideals of our fathers; of internationalism and solidarity for a
new age of globalization, and to help build a new fresh, fair consensus around trade and
labour for working people everywhere. The new century must be one of persuasion not
coercion, with engagement through multilateral rules, agreements where our differences are
settled fairly, through the law, which is the mandate of the WTO. It's not perfect, it can
be improved but the world would be a more unstable and more dangerous place without it.