Arlington-Based Outfit Urges India to Fight Against U.S. Interests in WTO

By David North on January 10, 2011

Is it fair play for an American organization to encourage a foreign government to take action against our government in a dispute before an international organization?

Clearly it is OK for an American organization to seek to change the policies of the American government directly, or in alliance with other American organizations. And it would be acceptable for an American organization – say the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce – to seek to change the policies of an international organization, say the UN.

But is it ethical (patriotic?) for an American outfit to use another country's government – in this case India – to stir up trouble against the U.S. government within the World Trade Organization?

What is narrowly at stake is the U.S. government's power to adjust fees within its immigration program. More broadly, it is a question of whether, to meet the wants of an American pressure group, the U.S. government can be over-ruled by an international organization over which we have no control. All with the aid of a foreign power?

To be more precise, these are the players and the specific immigration issue:

* The National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) is an advocacy group, headquartered in Arlington, Va., that supports free trade and open borders policies, and presumably is funded by big business. For the biographies of the leaders of this organization see here.

* The foreign nation is India, which has a strong vested interest in the continuation of the H-1B and L-1 visa programs; its corporations profit from them and many of its citizens work in the U.S. because of them. The government of India shows little interest in the U.S. workers who lose their jobs because of these programs.

* The international body, which we helped establish, is the World Trade Organization. It has the power to punish the U.S., if we, in its eyes, violate free trade treaties we have signed (in this case, I think, foolishly).

* The specific issue is the level of fees charged to some of the big users of the H-1B and L-1 programs; these were raised last summer by the Congress to both help fund US-Mexico border enforcement and to discourage the use of the two nonimmigrant programs. (For more on Senator Schumer (D NY) and this legislation, see my earlier blog.)

An NFAP report is apparently encouraging India to take America into the WTO's court system, where the U.S. is virtually powerless, because NFAP says the U.S. has violated the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GAT). The charge is that we boosted the fees for some users of the H-1B and L-1 programs, both of which exploit foreign workers and deny jobs to American workers. The fee increase is said to be in violation of our treaty obligations.

This has been reported with subdued glee and much detail by a pro-big-business publication in India, . It calls NFAP "an eminent American think tank."

I suggested in a CIS Backgrounder last summer, "
Beware of Indirect Immigration Policy Making," that the WTO is a threat to our ability to make our own immigration policy. This instance is a good example of that problem.

The U.S. rarely wins disputes within the WTO. Further, I have some grave doubts about the degree to which our people dealing with that agency are willing to go to bat for American workers who are hurt by its free trade and open borders policies. In fact, the author of the above-mentioned NFAP report calling on India to take action against the United States used to be just such a person; Stephen Claeys is described as a former "Deputy Assistant Secretary for Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Operations in the U.S. Department of Commerce, where he managed and provided policy leadership for the enforcement of the U.S. unfair trade laws."

We should never allow America to be in a situation, like the one we face, where we must argue in an international court to defend our right to run our own immigration policies, and where we may very well lose that argument.