From the I Shit You Not File: Business Aims to Relax Bans on Products Made with Child & Slave Labor

by: David Sirota

Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 09:41

We've seen corporations use "free trade" agreements to quietly camouflage their push for exploitable labor in broader arguments about globalization. What we haven't seen is corporate special interests openly push for U.S. regulators to openly allow companies to sell goods made with child and slave labor...until now.

Check out this report from Inside U.S. Trade (no link- subscription required) - it's straight from the I Shit You Not File:

Business groups are worried by the potential effects of provisions banning the import of all goods made with convict labor, forced labor, or forced or indentured child labor that were included in a customs bill sponsored by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA)...

These groups are examining the ramifications of the bill's provisions, especially in light of the bill's requirements that a newly created office in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) annually report to Congress on the volume and value of goods made with child labor, forced labor or convict labor that have been stopped at the border.

Business sources say this reporting requirement could cause DHS to more actively seek out imported products made with child labor, forced labor or convict labor...

One source did expect a push from lobbyists closer to the Finance Committee markup of the bill, and speculated that U.S. industry groups and foreign governments could form ad hoc coalitions to help send a united message.

Those of us pushing for serious trade policy reform have argued for years that businesses are aiming to create global economic policies that allow them to troll the world for the most exploitable forms of labor. As General Electric CEO Jack Welch famously said, corporations want laws that allow them to "have every plant you own on a barge" - one that can move from country to country looking for the worst conditions to exploit. Such an international economic regime would (and now does) allow the world's worst governments to create artificial comparative economic advantages through bad/immoral policies.

This is an important concept: Whereas comparative advantage used to be about natural advantages (ie. one country has optimal soil for grapes, another country has optimal soil for corn), "free trade" encourages countries to create comparative advantage through man-made laws. Some countries, for instance, creates a comparative advantage by letting factories pollute as much as they want, thus encouraging companies to move their factories there from other countries where pollution controls are more serious. Other countries create a comparative advantage by permitting children to be enslaved, thus encouraging companies operating in countries with more expensive non-slave labor to shift operations to a place where they can make products with all but free labor.

David Sirota :: From the I Shit You Not File: Business Aims to Relax Bans on Products Made with Child & Slave Labor
The way to stop this is for the world's largest economies to establish basic rules which everyone else will inevitably follow as a price of admission to those economies' markets. If the United States says companies cannot sell products in our market made with child slave labor, most companies will cease making products with child slave labor fearing the loss of access to our market which would destroy their business.

Of course, that's why business has opposed every effort to put basic labor, environmental and human rights standards into our international trade agreements - and why business groups are now preparing to try to weaken the laws barring products made with child slave labor. They know that the less rules that exist in the American market, the more cost-cutting exploitation they can engage in.

That corporations' advocacy for deregulation has now become so brazen that they are effectively pushing the U.S. government to endorse child slave labor is predictable. This is what their globalization agenda has always been all about. The only thing surprising about it is that in a Washington so overtly dominated by Big Money, it has taken them this long to be this blatant about their objectives.  

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It's always fascinating (4.00 / 5)
to dig into these industry wonk publications - these are the places where economic elites don't filter their ideas and priorities through a million layers of PR scrubbing (hence their unavailability to nonsubscribers).

Join the fight to give students a real voice on campus:

You nailed it -- (4.00 / 4)
what they are doing, why they are doing it, and what must be done to remedy, or at least to ameliorate the situation. Well done.

I suspect that the alarm bells are already going off in the War Room of the University of Chicago School of Economics. No doubt several of their acolytes will be along any minute to explain that the exploitation of slave labor actually contributes to the development of the nations in question, and ultimately raises the standard of living not only for them, but for everyone in the world. They will, of course, have the statistics to prove it.

it's simple (4.00 / 1)
As long as consumers buy slave-made products, the invisible hand of the free market has spoken and declared slave labor is morally OK.  

"I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that."
-Lawrence Summers

[ Parent ]
Consumers have little to no choice about anything.... (4.00 / 1)
If you can even determine country of origin, try to find anything that says made in the USA, UK, or anyplace else that isn't China.   While housing values, savings, wages and jobs evaporate, the price of goods, services and commodities remain the same or are increasing.   If it was about consumer choice, I don't think it would be this way; and we wouldn't be buying toys made of lead or dog food full of poison.

We the people consumer is a myth, and we really need to quit blaming the victims.  After this debacle of a land slide victory of so called Democrats, the only ones who will show to vote for them will be CEOs and their Republican neighbors who like greed but not crazy. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.  

[ Parent ]
Those studies were done long ago (0.00 / 0)
They already thought of this.

[ Parent ]
This Should Be Obvious, Too... (0.00 / 0)
Progressives should get someone on TV and print to rebut the Chicago School of Economics view by pointing out what has happened to this country as a result of these policies and union-busting over decades: we don't have the jobs for the unemployed and wages are depressed when they could be much higher. This policy destroys both jobs and living wages. In this depression we're in the middle of, with unemployment over 10%, at best, do we really want to make our situation that much worse?

Indeed, countries like Norway that are first world countries don't have this problem because their governments are run by reasonable people who are professionals, not idealogues. Surely someone on the Democratic and/or progressive side can make these rather obvious points?

Of course, if you want to be cheeky, one could ask when we will free these slaves and will we have to pay them reparations?

[ Parent ]
Slavery (4.00 / 5)
Lincoln was once asked about factory workers striking.  His response cuts through the crap, "Thank God they can strike."  These workers are on the same basis as some workers in the American South before the Civil War: they can not strike.

It may have nothing to do with it but a month or two ago there was a story in the local paper about someone who was staffing a chain of local beauty parlors with women from Africa.  OK.  These women were slaves.  I think there were more than 20 of them.  The lawyer unsuccessfully tried to defend his client on the notion that she was following the cultural norms of her country.  There is not much difference between that and what these "business" types are pushing except locale.

Business has become a dirty word and these creeps have made it so.  Thanks Milton Friedman.

Simple Strategy-How to get the public your side (4.00 / 1)
Get the country addicted to cheap imports, then get bold about legislation and regulation that might take this away.

Which would the public prefer - human rights or cheap goods? We'll see.

This shit is sick ! (4.00 / 2)
 Seriously when i heard goldman sachs got the h1n1 vaccine i decided it's time to socialize this dam country  

the market is us, but.... (4.00 / 1)
Given that none of us, or anyone else I am aware of, believes our economy will ever recover without substantial change, it seems this inhumane, unsubstainable situation may slowly fail. We cannot continue to buy even the inferior foreign junk as our purchasing power decilnes.

The race to the bottom is nearing the end, and no one wants to think about what comes next. Populism may not be the right word, but the popular anger is palpable, and growing. The bottom 90+% don't want to lose the lifestyle organized labor created.

In the past I thought, if the left couldn't put a stop to this (theft of lifestyle) the only possible result would be revolution or pee-on class citizenship for the 90+%. Now see another possibility. If the crazy right is the force that channels the popular anger, we could become the forth reich!

Rereading this it seems overly parinoid,.. decided to post for thought.

Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob..... FDR

For those interested in reading the actual bill (0.00 / 0)
see S. 1631, Sec. 308.


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