YORK -- Increasingly mobilized by the Internet, labor and environmental
activists are a growing threat to free trade and an open global economy,
a business leader said Tuesday.
Katz, outgoing president of the U.S. Council for International Business,
gave the keynote speech at the organization's annual dinner on Tuesday.
will retire from the post in February, to be replaced by Thomas M.T. Niles,
a former ambassador to Greece who has been serving as vice president of
the National Defense University.
Katz laid out several accomplishments achieved during his 14-year tenure,
as well as a number of continuing problems.
enemies of an open market system have marshalled a serious counterattack
on further liberalization of trade and investment and on multinational
companies as the main agents of globalization," said Mr. Katz, who joined
the council after a long career with the State Department.
of the business group have been alarmed about what they see as growing
threats to business, often spurred by the Internet. For instance, recent
charges that Nike Inc. mistreats its workers in southeast Asia were largely
spread across the electronic medium.
labor and environmental groups are pushing for unilateral sanctions against
offending countries and companies, Mr. Katz said.
more worldly and knowledgeable among them (activists) are aware that the
U.S. neither singly, nor in any combination of countries, can introduce
a unilateral sanction-based approach into the multilateral rule-based system
without tearing it apart," Mr. Katz said.
he charged, many of them "would just as soon see this happen."One of the
chief accomplishments that Mr. Katz cited is the International Labor Organization's
Declaration of Principles and Rights at Work, which was ratified in June
at the ILO, a 174-member group affiliated with the United Nations.
Katz's organization saw the declaration as a way to use the UN to pursue
better labor rights principles in countries that violate them egregiously,
without letting those concerns get in the way of trade.
groups that oppose the business group's agenda favor extending the declaration
of principles so that it can be used to punish or sanction countries or
objective of these groups, supported by certain governments, is to be able
to judge the behavior of companies in what would amount to kangaroo courts
in which non-governmental organizations and trade unions would have a major
voice," he said.
initiative of the business group that Internet-mobilized activists have
derailed is the Multilateral Agreement on Investment. That would standardize
rules so that each country would have to treat outside investors the same
way. It would protect investors from government interference such as arbitrary
seizure of property.
say it would give multinational corporations unprecedented power to challenge
governments' consumer, labor and environmental laws.
Katz also complained that labor groups have defeated fast-track trade negotiating
authority for President Clinton. In September, the House of Representatives
defeated a Republican-drafted fast-track bill. The president has pledged
to bring a new, comprehensive fast-track bill to Congress in January.