Clinton pushes open trade
President uses WEF address to tout open trade policies, China's inclusion in WTO
DAVOS, Switzerland (CNNfn) - President Clinton pledged Saturday to continue his push to open up new trade markets, calling such policies the only way to ensure the world's poorest nations will share in the rising global wealth.|
In a highly anticipated speech to more than 1,000 international business, economic and political leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum, Clinton also attempted to enlist the business community's support in helping secure a spot for China in the World Trade Organization. Clinton's speech marked the first time an incumbent U.S. president visited the forum in the small resort community in the Swiss Alps.
Less than three hours after his speech ended, more than 1,000 protestors took to the streets, some smashing windows and injuring a handful of police stationed there to help keep the peace.
Protestors took to the streets in Davos
Echoing several themes that highlighted his State of Union address Thursday night, Clinton urged the audience members to develop a shared global vision that balanced the business community's desire to embrace new technologies with the moral obligation to ensure the world's poorest nations share in the wealth.
The most logical way to find that balance, Clinton said was to continue pushing more countries to open their borders to free trade.
"Turing away from trade would keep part of our global community forever on the bottom," he said. "That is not the right response."
With that in mind, Clinton said he planned to begin the push for a new round of global trade talks that would give the world's developing nations more seats at the table.
However, he said developing nations would need to agree to worker and environmental protections - two issues that helped dismantle recent trade talks in Seattle.
"We shouldn't do anything to stunt the economic growth and development of developing nations," Clinton said. "But in today's world, developing countries can achieve growth without making the mistakes developed countries did on worker protections and the environment."
China's WTO status still up in the air
Clinton's comments came as he is struggling to cobble together the Congressional support necessary to ratify new U.S. trade agreements with Africa and the Caribbean Islands, as well a proposal to include China in the World Trade Organization.
Clinton addressing the World Economic Forum In Davos
Clinton said not accepting China into the WTO would be a "mistake of monumental proportions." Clinton expressed confidence China's inclusion might yet be ratified, but admitted "it's going to be a big fight."
In a news conference following Clinton's speech, Gene Sperling, one of Clinton's top economic policy advisors, said the U.S. would insist China be treated like any other country that has applied for entry into the WTO.
"We're not gonna put WTO conditions on China that have never been put on any other country before," Sperling said.
Sperling also refuted allegations that the U.S. would prefer to postpone a new global trade round until after the election.
"The President would like a new trade round as soon as possible, maybe in the early part of this year," he said. "It's utterly false to say we would like to delay it until after the U.S. election."
Clinton lauds WTO
In the same context, Clinton defended the WTO's role in settling trade disputes and setting global trade policies. However, he called for more public disclosure.
"Those who heard a wake-up call on the streets of Seattle are right on," Clinton said. "But those who called for the disbanding of the WTO are dead wrong. We have to keep working to strengthen the WTO.
"However, if we expect public support for the WTO, we have to let the public see what we're doing."