After months of delay, the Clinton Administration announced yesterday a trade legislation package that constitutes a thumb in the eye to the Democratic party, the working people and the environmental interests of the United States. The proposed Fast Track bill would give the administration broad powers to negotiate trade agreements that lower trade barriers, protect U.S. investment overseas, and provide "strong protection" for intellectual property rights. Workers and the environment rated nothing more than an insult.
The provision addressing worker rights and protection of the environment is the only specific negotiating objective in the legislation limited in its scope to proposals that can be pursued "through the World Trade Organization [WTO]." Dishonestly omitted by the Clinton administration from this reference, certainly because it is not widely known, was that in paragraph 4 of its December, 1996 Singapore Ministerial Declaration, the WTO expressly stated that it would not deal with labor issues in relation to trade, and referred any discussion of labor issues to the International Labor Organization, which has absolutely no enforcement power. Thus, based on the plan of the clever drafters at the White House, the uninformed reader might believe that President Clinton sounds serious about labor and the environment. He's committed to taking these important issues up before the WTO. Clinton and most of his Republican supporters of Fast Track know, however, that nothing will come of this since the WTO has already made a firm decision not to link trade and labor or environmental issues.