U.S. labor chief blasts IMF's deal for Asia MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - U.S. labor leader John Sweeney blasted the International Monetary Fund's rescue plans Thursday for Asian economies, likening its austerity demands to Medieval doctors prescribing leeches to cure the plague. ``(The IMF) seeks to restore the confidence of investors and speculators, to placate the fickle barons of finance, by bailing out those whose loans are at risk,'' said Sweeney, head of the 13 million member AFL-CIO labor union umbrella group. ``The bill for this treatment is then passed on to workers -- in depressed wages, lost jobs, crushed hopes. The Fund is like the medieval doctors at the time of the Black Plague who applied the only remedy they knew -- bleeding their patients.'' The U.S. labor chief was addressing students at Mexico City's National Autonomous University. He drew comparisons between the woes of Indonesia, Thailand and others and Mexico's disastrous peso devaluation in December 1994, which provoked a massive flight of capital and a recession the country is only now pulling out of. Sweeney said the result in Mexico today of an IMF-backed rescue was millions of unemployed, ``poverty and rising crime, social and political upheaval,'' while those responsible for the economic collapse were bailed out by international funds. ``In the new global casino economy, we are essentially telling the biggest gamblers they can pocket their winnings and the house will cover their losses. This is an invitation to greater folly, not greater responsibility,'' he said. IMF first Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer defended its Asian rescue deals Thursday, saying the crisis would have been far deeper without its help and describing the loans as investments instead of costs. In addition to lashing out at billion-dollar IMF loans, Sweeney also criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Washington's drive to win so-called ``fast-track' trade deal negotiating authority from Congress. ``For us, NAFTA has been a failure,'' he said at a news conference after holding talks with President Ernesto Zedillo. President Clinton had wanted to get fast-track approval by the Santiago summit in April of leaders from the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) signatory countries. Thirty-four nations in the hemisphere agreed at the 1994 Miami summit to set up a free trade zone from Alaska to Patagonia by the year 2005. But Clinton withdrew the bill from Congress after it became clear that he had not mustered enough support. Sweeney called on the Mexican labor movement to join with him in making sure trade agreements included controversial social clauses setting minimum working conditions. ``In our global neighborhood, companies must be held to international standards of simple decency,'' he said. [INLINE] [INLINE] Return to top[ISMAP]-This image allows you to access site resources 1997 - 1998 Mercury Center. The information you receive online from Mercury Center is protected by the copyright laws of the United States. The copyright laws prohibit any copying, redistributing, retransmitting, or repurposing of any copyright-protected material.
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