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Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at Announcement of New Administration Efforts To Fight Sweatshops and Child Labor
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
January 16, 2001, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much. Thank you. Hyperbole is definitely the order of the day. I am very, very pleased to be able to be here today with what is a truly amazing team, with Secretary Herman and Secretary Summers and Gene Sperling. And I think as we sit here, I think we are testament to the fact of what I think made President Clinton so appealing to all of us, not only at the beginning but throughout these eight years, is that he has had the capability of really combining domestic and foreign policy so that, in so many ways, it is a seamless transition from one to the other, and for the American people to understand how they go together and how foreign policy is not so foreign.

And really, here we have this morning the ability to talk about the Administration's unshakeable commitment to international workers rights. And here, as in other areas, I think the Clinton White House and the Cabinet have worked together in the most cooperative way and successfully to promote American interests and defend the values our citizens cherish. President Clinton is very proud of saying that historians have said that this is the most loyal Cabinet that has served any President, and it's because I think not only do we admire him but we clearly all like each other. So I think that that part is very important. This is an all-star team here today and I feel very privileged to be able to have worked with them.

Over the past four years, my Cabinet partners and I have worked especially closely to address the issues of forced child and sweatshop labor around the globe. As anyone who has heard me knows, I have been particularly appalled by the forced labor situation in Burma, which the ILO has condemned and which is unlikely to improve as long as democracy is denied.

And although only a few days remain in this Administration, please rest assured we have not spoken our last word on Burma. But my subject today is a different one.

(Applause.)

I am very pleased this morning to announce six grants totaling $3.9 million to kick off the State Department's anti-sweatshop initiative. These grants recognize that in a global economy some countries will seek to compete by cutting corners and ignoring abuses. And that is all too human and dead wrong, and we can and must not accept it.

The grants I announce today will go to organizations with strong records and proven expertise in promoting justice in the workplace. They are Social Accountability International, the International Labor Organization, the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, the International Labor Rights Fund, the Fair Labor Association, and US AID.

Efforts to eliminate sweatshops are at an early stage. There is no one proven formula, and so these grants are not only going to a variety of organizations; they will support a variety of approaches. These include the establishment of business codes of conduct, workplace monitoring systems, research and labeling initiatives. And together they are designed to encourage partnerships among corporations, unions, consumers and NGOs to make sweatshop labor a relic of the past.

The importance of these issues was also reflected in a report the State Department recently received from our Advisory Committee on Labor Diplomacy. The report is entitled, "A World of Decent Work: Labor Diplomacy for the New Century." And I congratulate committee chairman Tom Donahue and his distinguished colleagues for the report, which we studied carefully before accepting the majority of its recommendations.

Our goal is a State Department that exercises continuous leadership in supporting core worker standards and whose personnel at every level and in every country recognize the connection between worker rights and our interest in a peaceful, stable and prosperous world. The anti-sweatshop grants and the Advisory Committee Report are the latest in a series of steps that we have taken to adapt US labor diplomacy to meet the demands of the 21st Century. And these include the appointment of a Special Representative for International Labor Affairs. Sandra, your presence at the State Department has made so much difference and I am so grateful to you for being a partner in this.

We also have had a 50 percent increase in the number of Foreign Service Officers in labor-related positions, and a tripling of the staff in the Office of International Labor Affairs. These initiatives are in America's interest because our citizens cannot accept a global economy that rewards the lowest bidder without regard for basic standards. And they wouldn't be fair to our workers, it would retard social progress, and it would betray values of decency and fairness that we are pledged to uphold.

I have found very interesting when I've given, especially, commencement speeches that a line that you might not expect to get the most applause is one in which I say that when we buy a blouse or a shirt we want to know that it was not produced by people who are under age, under coercion, under paid, or denied their basic right to organize. That always really gets them.

(Applause.)

We want a global economy that works to benefit all people and where profits come from inspiration and perspiration, not exploitation. That desire is shared not just by our workers but also by our consumers and by our business community, which has made the export of exemplary corporate practices one of our most valuable. And our joint efforts provide a strong platform upon which the new Administration can build, and I look forward to supporting continued measures to assert American leadership toward a greater social and economic justice and leading to broader prosperity and a deeper democracy for our own citizens and the world's.

I think that as one reads journals and papers these days, there is the beginning of what is a continued discussion actually as to whether American foreign policy is Wilsonian -- i.e., meaning goo-goo -- or realistic, tough-minded. I have always thought that that is a false dichotomy because the only realistic policy for the United States is one that reflects our basic values. It's the only one that the American people will truly support. And certainly labor rights, the rights of children, human rights, have to be a central part of American foreign policy if we are to carry out a realistic foreign policy for the 21st Century.

Thank you all very, very much for coming.

(Applause.)

[End of Document]
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