We take a stand on a wide range of issues. Some highlights include trade, taxation and intellectual property, workplace, employment, sustainability, climate and sport.
International Trade. International trade, and the ability to move our product around the world without barriers, remains a cornerstone of NIKE, Inc.'s success as a company. While the global economic crisis has resulted in a significant slow down in international trade for every major economy, in some countries the crisis has also led to a sharp rise in trade defense actions.
Despite calls by G-20 leaders to avoid protectionist measures during the economic crisis, the World Trade Organization reports that most developed and developing countries have implemented broad measures that either bail out significant sectors with government subsidies and/or loans, or protect domestic sectors from import competition through imposition of a wide range of trade restrictions. These trends in global trade policy impact many sectors, including global manufacturing and sporting goods.
Along with protectionism, trade-liberalizing measures such as bilateral trade agreements or multilateral negotiations remain mired down in political uncertainty and, in some cases, controversy.
We remain active in the trade debate for two primary reasons: to challenge protectionism that impacts our business and to advocate for trade liberalization. We do so by arguing our firm belief that the greatest driver for economic growth and prosperity is when producers and consumers have open access to goods and services on a global basis. We believe that open access creates an economic climate that encourages growth, investment and innovation - all key factors in moving the global economy forward.
Our challenge is to ensure that all stakeholders are willing to promote and commit to open trade in a way that also improves people's lives, encourages long-term sustainability and delivers environmental benefits.
Trade and Labor/Environmental Rights. One of the most difficult issues contributing to the stalemate in the passage of bilateral trade agreements, including the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization, is the debate surrounding the linkages of trade to labor and environmental enforcement. The dispute is a philosophical one. Some believe that labor and environmental enforcement (traditionally through sanctions) ought to be part of trade agreements because weak enforcement from developing countries creates a competitive advantage that injures industry in developed countries. Others believe that the link is a disguised protectionism, an effort by developed countries to imposing their standards on the rest of the world.
We believe the discussion, while vigorous, has been unfortunate and unnecessary. The difficulty we see in the past debates is that the proposed remedy for failure to enforce tends to be sanctions: if the developing country has poor enforcement, the developed country has the right to trade retaliation. While many countries do not fully enforce their labor and environmental laws, the reasons for them not doing so are more complex. Many countries don't have the resources, expertise or, in some cases, the desire (such as countries with high unemployment that are working to attract foreign investment for job creation). Imposition or threat of sanctions won't change this; in fact, they are counterproductive.
NIKE, Inc. has long believed that the debate needs to be turned on its head. Rather than sanctions, trade incentives ought to be used for enforcement.
We don't have many answers yet, but would like to be part of a broader discussion with a wide-ranging group of stakeholders about how governments can include strong labor and environmental standards in trade agreements and, instead of trade restrictions, develop incentives for countries to abide by those standards. Some possibilities include greater development aid, capacity building or training, or greater market access for those who take enforcement seriously. Additionally, we believe that governments from developed countries ought to be more creative in how they fashion their unilateral trade preference programs while providing greater market access to those developing countries that have mechanisms in place and have the desire to enforce core labor and environmental standards. Finally we would like to find creative ways, consistent with the WTO, for governments to closely examine existing tariff codes and create incentives that encourage sustainable product development and reward those products that use sustainability as a foundation for development and manufacturing through tariff or tax preference.