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U.S. Policy on Labor Abroad

Re “Shifty Move on Labor Rights in Vietnam,” International Outlook, March 25:

Nothing better illustrates Times writer Jim Mann’s point about Washington’s hypocrisy in dealing with labor abroad than the juxtaposition of his story with the front-page article that day on President Clinton’s trip to Africa. While Clinton was in Uganda awkwardly apologizing for America’s slave trade practices of the previous centuries, his administration, through the Overseas Private Investment Corp., is rubber-stamping Vietnam’s current substandard, coercive labor practices for the benefit of the big business lobby and corporations like Nike.

It seems at first glance that OPIC is failing to do its job by ignoring the litany of complaints against Vietnam’s labor standards. In reality, perhaps the best “insurance” it can provide for the success of American companies overseas is to ensure that foreign countries like Vietnam maintain a repressive hold on their labor market, allowing American companies to profit from suppressed wages and nonexistent workers rights.

The big business interests of cotton blinded America in the past to the injustices of slavery. Are we destined to be blinded again, this time by the big business interests of athletic shoe companies to the injustices of slave labor practices abroad?

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MICHAEL GOOLEY

Santa Ana


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