The collapse of trade negotiations here may strengthen the hand of labor and environmental groups as they press Congress to reject President Clinton's landmark trade agreement with China.
Clinton already was gearing up for a bruising election-year fight in the Republican-controlled Congress over the deal, which would open a wide range of Chinese markets and clear the way for Beijing to join the World Trade Organization.
Fresh from victory in Seattle, labor leaders said it was only the beginning of their campaign to raise the voice of workers in trade deals such as the one struck with China last month.
Teamsters Union President James Hoffa said in a CNN interview that it was clear labor had newfound clout in the trade arena. "I look for more demonstrations in Washington to bring out people and say, 'Hey, this is a serious problem, we're not buying it,' " he said.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation" that the collapse of the WTO talks was a step forward in the sense that "no deal is better than a bad deal."
"We all support trade and we all recognize globalization," he said. "But it's about time that the WTO took into consideration worker rights."
Sweeney vowed to fight against normalizing trade relations with China "until there are some rules that the Chinese are going to play by."
"That was our argument with the WTO," he said. "Make the rules before you admit China."
Commerce Secretary William Daley disagreed with reports that the Seattle talks had ended in failure. "There is a built-in agenda that must move forward," he said on the CBS program. "Agriculture, services negotiations, government procurement--these are launched automatically by the WTO in negotiations as of January 1, 2000. Whether they can be brought to completion is the question."
Labor leaders have said they would join forces with environmentalists, human rights groups and consumer advocates in opposing the trade deal with China when lawmakers take it up next year.
Congress must vote to grant China permanent normalized trade privileges as part of the deal that would open the Asian nation's vast market potential to U.S. businesses. China's current trade status, which gives it low-tariff access to U.S. markets, must be renewed each year.
The annual renewal debate often focuses attention on Beijing's record on human rights, nuclear weapons proliferation and the environment as well as the huge U.S. trade deficit with China.