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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

U.S. Unions Press For Sanctions Against China

Cheboygan Tribune

International "WASHINGTON - Organized labor asked the Bush administration on Tuesday to impose economic sanctions on China, contending that the country has violated workers' rights in order to gain trade advantages against the United States."

The above article reports that for the first time in union history U.S. Organised Labour that it has attempted to seek redress against a foreign enterprise or country under a domestic U.S. Trade Law.

The report states "The petition, filed by the AFL-CIO on behalf of its 13 million members, alleged that China was brutally repressing worker rights and this constituted an unfair labor practice as defined in Section 301 of Trade Act of 1974."

There has been much grumbling among Unions and Protectionists in the U.S. about the record $124 billion U.S. trade deficit with China last year and the loss of thousands of U.S. factory jobs as a result.

Similar concerns occurred in the seventies and eighties about the economic rise of Japan in foreign trade.

I can empathise with the Union's position and I agree that "sweat shop" labour is being used in China, but we have to look for analogies in the history of Japan where similar conditions applied early on in their economic development. It is what economists call "competitive advantage". As National Income rises, however, 'wage and conditions' demands follow suit and "sweat shop" economies gradually disappear as they have done in Japan.

It is vitally important for the long term Human Rights of workers that they have the opportunity to work in the first place. Any trade sanctions or tarriffs will put a downward pressure on wages and conditions in China as companies fight to remain competitive. The end result will only be the worsening of the human rights situation of the workers.

Unfortunately capitalism and the laws of supply and demand dictate these things. If one champions capitalism and free trade, as the U.S. does, one has to live with it's consequences, meaning, that the U.S. either gets out of those industries that it is not competitive with China in or becomes more efficent in those industries.