WSJ on A16

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at Princeton.EDU
Mon Apr 10 19:06:50 PDT 2000

OK Max, I am back home where I downloaded your message.

>That's the standard objection, the Clinton argument,
>and it could be true. But note you could have said
>the same thing about the SA boycott. Keep them in
>the family of nations, blah blah blah. Of course,
>there always seem to be exceptions -- Cuba, Iraq,
>When people really want to stick it to some other
>nation, they tend to back sanctions, if not violence.
>When they have some reason not to, they talk about
>influence arising from cooperation.

Everyone knows that sanctions are a blunt instrument. In case of South Africa, sanctions were used to eliminate apartheid; in the case of China the threat of sanctions after annualized review is used in part to speed up the nature and pace of privatization, to rationalize accounting standards, to allow multinationals to maintain proprietary control of technology and import as much of the inputs as possible, to liberalize capital accounts and to enforce military subordination (again note recent case on satellite tech). I see no moral equivalence here, and no possibility at all that if US capital gets what it wants on these issues that the Dept of Commerce or the AFL CIO will hold up trade on the grounds of labor violations. Labor is playing a sucker's game here, and allowing itself to be used by cold warriors.

And remember how the US has operated since WWII. The putative public good of Marshall Plan aid was given to states whose devastation has been overestimated (see Milward) in order to encourage European leaders to rout Communists of all stripes out of politics and to accept the US embargo on the Soviets, though for them East/West trade had been quite significant. Marshall Plan aid was not given to poor third world countries which had also been (often more) devastated by World War II (to say nothing of imperialism); it was part of Soviet containment strategy. If you want to understand the roots of the call for sanctions on China--and the lengths to which economic losses will be tolerated for ideological and security reasons-- you need to understand the Cold War, not the call for sanctions on South Africa for goodness sake.

As a commentator has pointed out, we have cold warriors in the afl-cio. my reaction to the china question is not so much motivated by immigrant sympathies but by my fear of the negative consequences of this kind of anticommunism on our political culture and the global integration that the world market makes possible. It is true that I remain fearful of how the anti China campaign will redound upon asian-americans.

>We could turn this argument upside-down too. If
>you really want to insulate China from imperialist
>influence, Rakesh, shouldn't you oppose their
>admission to the WTO and ensuing "dependence"
>on capitalist economic relations?

As already noted, concesssions will be won through bilateral negotiations or as condition of entry into WTO. Having US and China work within a multilateral organization seems best to me in this case.

>[mbs[ Governments are responsible for what multinationals
>do on their soil. If they aren't, who is? You can't
>petition a multinational. YOu can only attack it with
>public policy.

So you punish the whole country because the state cut a deal with the multinational that won't suffer at all from the consequences of the sanctions or a small quota. Seems absurd to me. _____________ Max, here is my earlier post on the argument I would have submitted to AFL CIO spokesperson Thea Lea:

my position remains that most third world exports are non competing with US based production; rather they are in competition with other third world exports. For example, run up in China's surplus has come to some large extent at expense of other Asian nations in which Japanese capital decided labor costs were getting to high. The threat of blocking China is

used to ensure that the concessions that US capital or US labor wants are granted (for example what I have called export content laws, i.e., production must use some great deal of US ingredients if access to US market is to be granted), not to protect US labor from competition or advance human rights abroad.

The threat of exclusion is used to break down other countries' trade barriers, as Sweeney himself has put it.

That is, the social clause should be understood in the tradition of Super 301 and other unilateral, bully tactics--which is I think how most of the world sees it. Even if this is not how AFL CIO intends social clause to be used, this is how it will be used by the capitalist state.

And what explains US labor's declaration of sufficient enough improvment in Bangladeshi working conditions to allow substantial quota increases? No proof that child labor has been eliminated. No indication that the exploitation of adults is not as repulsive as exploitation of children was. Can't say that US labor at least has the right not to compete with child labor since exports weren't competitive anyway. We should see how arbitrarily countries are declared good and bad in this system.

As I said, US labor cannot seriously want to block China out for reasons of employment since its best bet to avoid overproduction of capital, i.e. justaposition of idle capital and idle workes as Marx puts it, is availability of Chinese labor so as to expand the base of valorization which has become shrunken in relation to the huge mass of capital that is being accumulated.

No, the AFL CIO will not boycott the IPO of all American companies that invest in China. They want those companies to invest there as long as they create a stream of imports, in particular of capital goods, from America.

US labor is not fighting to keep China permanently out of world trade; it is fighting prevent to permanent normalized trade relation (i thought it was permanent most favored nation status--PMFN). The AFL CIO merely wants annual negotations to keep the pressure on China, to keep threat of exclusion always alive. Towards what ends will this threat of exclusion be used? When will the AFL CIO look the other way or accept dubious reports of labor improvements?

As for thinking that outside of China, all other countries in the WTO will rally behind the social clause, this is pretty damn silly reason for excluding China.

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