Henry Kissinger used the failure of the Seattle trade conference to tee off on President Clinton's handling of that affair [op-ed, Dec. 20], but the conference failed not because of violence in the streets but because the countries were not willing to deal on the questions of most importance to a large group, including the United States.

We wanted liberalization of trade in farm products and services and a code governing direct foreign investment. The Europeans torpedoed agriculture, and the developing countries vetoed progress on the other two issues. Once the administration decided it couldn't get a deal, it saw no reason not to turn the event to its political advantage in next year's presidential election.

The rest of the Kissinger screed is a mishmash of the costs of trade liberalization--one might almost conclude that he was opposed to freer trade. To quote economist Milton Freedman, "there ain't no free lunch" in trade or any other economic field. But some economists have long argued that the winners can compensate the losers and still come out ahead. In practice, Congress has declined to provide sufficient adjustment assistance to get the aggrieved to go along.

One issue that no one has been willing to face is the damaging effect of globalization on trade unions. Yes, trade creates more good jobs, but they are not unionizable. Hence, trade unions, seeing their membership decline, oppose trade improvements but disguise it as concern for the badly paid in poor countries. The problem in those countries is not poor pay but the lack of jobs. Once they get full employment, their wages will rise.


Newton, Mass.

The Post's lessons from Seattle [editorial, Dec. 1] are based on a questionable premise--that the violent anti-World Trade Organization protests reflect "a mute resentment that has been building up for years."

The Seattle resenters included the representatives of heavily subsidized French farmers resentful at WTO-approved U.S. tariffs imposed on cheese and other products in response to the European Union's stonewall resistance to imports of bananas from Central America.

Then there were the longshoremen, all of whose premium-wage jobs depend on the fleets of container ships carrying cargoes to and from West Coast ports. James Hoffa was in Seattle to speak for the teamsters, whose livelihood is also bound up with the transport of goods.

Another vocal resenter was AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, whose own service-employees union members are exposed to international trade only by way of the wider choice and better prices that import competition provides.

Mr. Sweeney purportedly speaks for the teachers, the federal, state and municipal workers, the postal service employees, the construction workers, and all the other union members--a majority of the total--whose living standards similarly benefit from our participation in the international exchange of goods and services.

Ralph Nader, that self-elected champion of the American consumer, was also in Seattle to protest on behalf of a constituency that cheerfully ignores his message every shopping day of the year.

Environmentalists were represented, if that is the applicable word, by the Sierra Club, the Ruckus Society and several others. The mainstream environmental organizations otherwise sensibly did not see fit to join the Seattle resenters.

The WTO will mark its fifth birthday in January. Its basic mandate is to manage in an orderly fashion rules for the conduct of world trade, rules the most crucial of which date from 1947. These are rules that its 135 national state members have accepted, out of self-interest and not because of pressure from Washington or anywhere else. The WTO is no more a pretender to world government status than CARE. To believe, as The Post's editorial suggests, that the WTO faces a world consumed with animus against international trade is surely wrong.