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Big Business USA To Woo Greenie Lefties

Capitalist America has decided it has a new sweetheart, the leftie environmentalists and trade unions, and it wants to send them some valentines.

Corporate biggies, trade groups and Business Roundtable chieftains including representatives from Caterpillar Inc., America International Group Inc., ABB Asea Brown Boveri Ltd and Boeing Co. have been meeting since January in Washington to plan a new strategy, the Wall Street Journal reports.

On the agenda have been environmental standards and "a recognition that work needs to be done on labour" if new trade deals are to be enacted. WSJ journalist Helene Cooper reports Peter Scher, a company lobbyist who formerly held a high ranking trade job under Clinton, as saying, "It's clear that there is little hope for enacting any trade deals without addressing labour and environment, and business knows this".

Worrying the corporates have been recent protests at WTO in Seattle and a demanding Congress refusing to pass legislation in support of free trade unless labour and environmental standards were upheld.

Measures stalled in the years since 1994 include authority for the President to fast-track trade deals, which would give Congress a veto but no power to amend, a single Free-Trade Area of the Americas, and hoped-for decisions from the Seattle WTO meeting.

In an environmental case reported last year, a Mexican town council was prosecuted under NAFTA for refusing to accept toxic waste from a Californian company called Metalclad. Metalclad, which already owned a waste dump in the town, claimed in court that the town was stealing its legitimate profits by refusing to take the toxic wastes.

US big business is hoping that its valentine move will mean Presidential fast-track negotiating powers will be in place for an April summit in Quebec City on a western hemispheric free-trade pact.

/// Story written by Lyn Milnes.

MORE INFORMATION:

Wall Street Journal, "Firms Rethink Hostility to Linking Trade, Labor Rights", 2 February 2001

Land Air Water Assn Inc, Box 37-773, Parnell, Auckland, phone/fax Lyn Milnes at 07 826 3080


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