THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
STEPHEN FRAZIER CNN ANCHOR: Bobbie, thank you. And we are sorry to interrupt, but we'd like to show you now pictures coming to us from Quebec City in Canada, where police in riot gear and gas masks have formed a line and are beginning to advance on demonstrators there. The demonstrators throwing what appear to be rocks and also returning tear gas canisters, throwing them into the ranks of police.
It's rather a chaotic scene as we're showing you now, but this is all happening against backdrop of the Summit of the Americas, where 34 leaders of nations in the American Hemisphere are gathering to talk about increasing globalization of free trade zone in this hemisphere, a zone of 800 (sic) consumers. And that political agenda has attracted what police are estimating to be eventually a crowd of 10,000. They think about 4,000 people are there now to protest the effects of globalization.
And now these are live pictures from Quebec City. The protesters believe that globalization leaves a lot of people behind and that it's a blueprint for corporations to move from country to country where the regulations are the most lax. Regulations for labor, for payment of workers, for worker protection in the workplace, for environmental protection. And these are the people who have come now. You can see wider shot of them to protest the idea of what's being discussed.
The issues at hand on the part of the leaders are reduced restrictions, reduced barriers to trade. This would be an expanded version of NAFTA, in which all 34 nations of this hemisphere would eliminate trade barriers and would open their borders to inner hemispherical trade. It would be a zone of some 800 (sic) consumers, and it's hoped that it would have the same effect that NAFTA has since its implementation in 1994, during which trade has doubled with Canada and tripled with Mexico -- that's between the United States and Mexico -- doubled between the United States and Canada and in which proponents believe that a number of jobs have been created and that prosperity has lifted the well-being of everyone.
These opponents of that kind of measure believe that, in fact, life had not gotten better for poor workers, and that only corporations have benefited from these free trade policies, and their plan is to try to disrupt these meetings as much as possible with the kind of tactics we are looking at now.
We are trying to tell whether they're throwing rocks, or if they're just returning, at the police, the canisters of tear gas that have fired into the crowd by police. There's one now just hitting the tarmac to the left, on the right side of the screen.
The police are also using, what appear to be, batons, but we haven't seen them used against any of these demonstrators yet and as the police were advancing, the protesters were backing up.
The meetings on the part of leaders are usually held, as they have been, in Seattle, also earlier, in Washington, and in a related sense, earlier this year, in Davos, Switzerland. In closed meetings, not exactly secret, but not open at all to these protesters, with only the occasional news conference where leaders come before the media to explain what they are doing in their meetings.
This conference set to last for three days. The leaders are just now arriving. And it's expected to break up on Sunday afternoon, of course unless these folks who have gathered can effect greater disruptions earlier than we might expect. But so far recap what we're seeing are pictures coming to us now from Quebec City, Canada. These are courtesy of our neighbor there, broadcaster CTV, Canadian television.
These scenes both on the ground and in the air show tear gas canisters being fired into the crowd and giving off tear gas. The police in gas masks and riot gear. You can see the helmets there on the police with their Plexiglas shields on the right of your screen, and you can see that many of the demonstrators are prepared for this. They have come themselves with their own gas masks, and some of them wearing not just clothing to protect from the weather, but padded clothing to protect them, possibly, from confrontation with authorities.
So far though, we haven't seen in any of these pictures, any of these scenes, any hand to hand fighting where the police would be using their batons. They have, in addition to those shields, you can see, each of them armed with a night stick, a wooden baton, but we haven't seen them using those yet. Nor have we seen the protesters approach close enough so that they might take a swing at the police. They've been throwing things at them.
Earlier we understand protesters tore down a section of a fence that was erected to try to keep them away from this summit. It was a rather substantial structure made of concrete and chain link. Police were calling it a barricade,not just a fence, and we understand that some of it has been ripped away. You can see a little bit of it there in the lower portion of the picture. We're covering it up now with a banner.
We're also told by the Associated Press, that in addition to throwing back those tear gas canisters, they are, in fact, throwing bottles and rocks. Canadian police were ready for this based on what happened in other cities where the leaders have met. And you can tell there that they are not provoked by these missiles that are being thrown at them, and by the approaches of protesters nor their taunts. They've been practicing for some time knowing in advance that this summit was going to attract controversy, and probably attract protesters.
Already now, in advance of the arrival of leaders, there have been six arrests of Canadian who were armed not only with tear gas, but with grenades that came from a Canadian Military Armory. They had a friend, apparently, in the Canadian military.
A seventh Canadian wanted in connection with that group turned himself into authorities after his six colleagues were, in fact, arrested. We don't know what's happened to them. There you can see what looked to be a big chunk of concrete being thrown at authorities -- knocked it down with their shields -- but these aren't rocks being thrown, they're big pieces being lobbed by protesters.
Cuba the only nation in the Western Hemisphere not taking part in this summit. It's communist regime not seen as sufficiently Democratic by the other 34 nations which have in fact gathered here.
The fence which we've been telling you about and that section which you can see there, just in the lower part of your screen actually stretches for two miles in an attempt to wall off this kind of demonstration from the leaders who are meeting. The first attack on the fence came when demonstrators marched up to it and threw rolls of toilet paper over it. Just streaming it in the hopes of making their presence felt symbolically. Now, however, it's more than symbolism. They've actually taken down the barriers.
Canadian authorities brought in 6,000 police from different provinces. They are concerned, having seen violent protest in other cities, as we mentioned,.Seattle and Washington. Many windows of the buildings in this city have been boarded up. It's historic architecture all near the area where the summit is taking place, cherished by people here. Shops have been closed today by most shop keepers.
Last night several hundred protesters gathered and demonstrated in Quebec City, but there were no major incidents. Wednesday, as we told you, was the roundup of the seven people who allegedly planned to disrupt the summit with grenades. They also had smoke bombs and something the Canadian authorities described as frightening equipment.
Also on the agenda here, and which is not discussed by these demonstrators, is the fact that leaders plan to discuss ways to improve access to education, and to alleviate poverty. They also have on their agenda human rights and the issue of illegal drug trafficking in the Americas.
That's a particular issue for President Bush, who says he plans to bring that up himself. But this is part of his pledge to create a free trade zone of nations in the north and south hemisphere by the year 2005.
These pictures now look like they could -- not all possibly be live large movements of people. A little farther away from the police, backing away now.
And we are being joined now with pictures from TVA as well as CTV. And it would be interesting to know what it is that prompted demonstrators to back away from the police as rapidly as they are now. Some of them are running. But from these pictures, it's not clear what it is that prompted this.
Just to recap, if you are just joining us now, these are pictures coming in live from Quebec City, Canada. And what you are looking at is smoke from the tear gas canisters which have been fired at demonstrators protesting the Summit of the Americas, a gathering of leaders occurring now in Quebec City. And the canisters are being picked up and thrown back at the police by these demonstrators.
This is a view just to the right of a large gathering of demonstrators and police, both. It is nearby, a part a barrier erected by the authorities, which has been stormed and torn down by demonstrators. And we thought the camera might be going over there now, it doesn't appear to be going that far.
This city park, however, the focus of the demonstrators' gatherings. And the barrier we were telling you about is off to the right on this main avenue that you can see now in these pictures. But for some reason, the crowd has thinned out and moved back about 100 yards from police. We don't know why.
Eyewash, to try to help with the effects of the tear gas. And as you can see there, some of the demonstrators coming with their own gas masks and protective helmets.
There now, as the camera moves across, you can see the line of police that is assembled just inside the barrier that is being torn down. It may be hard to see there. There is a concrete barrier extending away from us. These are the sort of New Jersey barriers, that they are called, that go up on highways. And then above those, it's a little harder to see in this picture, is chain-link fence that was erected on top of the concrete, and there you can clearly see evidence of where demonstrators have ripped down both the chain-link and overturned the concrete.
This now, if you count Thursday night, a full 24 hours of incidents. And you can see, as we mentioned, some of them arriving from different points of the globe in full riot regalia, bringing their own gas masks, bringing their own helmets, and bringing their own padded clothing in some cases. Here now is the close-up picture of the fence we were describing for you.
We'd like to bring in, for his expertise, our White House correspondent, senior White House correspondent, John King who is not at the scene of these pictures here, but who can tell us a little bit about what it is these protesters object to and why they have gathered in such large numbers. John, are you able to hear us?
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I hear you just fine, Stephen.
I am inside the perimeter, a safe distance from this protest. Some of our camera crews are standing by at the scenes, though. They're reporting very thick clouds of the tear gas. The police here and the protesters both putting into play here lessons learned from last year's World Trade Organization summit in Seattle, when of course, there were major problems with the police, major problems with the security.
You see here the tear gas being used to disperse the protesters who try to break through a piece of the perimeter, we are told. The chain-link fence, as you were just showing, around the perimeter.
As to what these protesters are against? Not all, of course, on the same page, but most of them are joined together by their opposition to what they call "globalization." They believe these free trade deals, and that is the signature issue for this 34-nation Summit of the Americas. Most of the protesters believe those free trade deals exploit workers, lower wage workers in the poorer nations represented here, and that also, those free trade deals in their view, again, in the view of the protesters, tend to lead to damage to the environment, exploitation of the environment.
Very vocal, obviously, last year at the World Trade Organization meeting. They have been preparing for months for this summit here, knowing that free trade was agenda item number one, and the police, of course, have been preparing as well and comparing notes with the law enforcement authorities who faced a very similar challenge during that summit back in Seattle.
Now the leaders are far away from all this. They are inside this perimeter. And I am in the Old City of Quebec, and it's quite peaceful where I am. And we've seen a few of the motorcades go by, but there are law enforcements in full riot gear through the compound here, and obviously you see them on the perimeter, trying to disperse that protest.
And that a relatively small group of the protesters. We are told there are thousands here. Forgive the noise, there's an ambulance pulling away from the scene here -- thousands of protesters gathered here, and these protests taking place is a full 2 1/2 hours before the opening ceremonies of this weekend's summit -- Stephen.
FRAZIER: John, we have focused in our past coverage of these events, such as the Seattle demonstrations you mentioned, on the English-speaking protesters, but there are quite a few of them from these nations in South America who are concerned that, unlike the democracy that President Bush referred to in his arrival remarks, that in fact, there will be new dictatorships created in South America by this free trade agreement, and those dictatorships will be dictatorships of corporation power, corporate power, mostly emanating from North America, which rose ever more powerful thanks to this free trade agreements?
KING: That is certainly correct. Many from the less-developed nations, whether those nations be full democracies or whether they be, at least in the eyes of the United States, less than full democracies. In those countries, you are exactly right. Their fear is that major corporations, mostly from the United States and perhaps Canada, one of the wealthy nations represented here as well, will come and exploit their countries. Exploit their workers as well exploit their environment.
This is very representative of the debate that happened back in 1994, when then-President Clinton won passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the great dichotomy those -- of opinion about that Free Trade Agreement six years after it became law.
You will hear President Bush at this summit. You heard President Clinton in his second term in office, Prime Minister Chretien of Canada, the President of Mexico Vicente Fox, they all promote NAFTA as a godsend. They say it has created jobs in their countries, led to freer trade. However, labor unions in all of the affected countries, environmentalists in those countries -- in Canada, in the United States and in Mexico -- all claim grave damage has been done because of the trade agreements.
This now not only in the United States one most of the divisive issues, but trade becoming one of the most divisive issues, as there is the continuing debate over the globalization of the economy.
FRAZIER: As you know, John, Canada was already America's number one trading power -- the number one trading partner with the United States, and since the development of NAFTA, as you say, their trade doubled with Canada. Our understanding is that trade between the United States and Mexico tripled, and still the new president there, Vicente Fox, has as one of his most radical proposals, the elimination of the border between Mexico and the United States for a complete free movement, not only of goods and service, but of people.
We are not sure -- although he is immensely popular there right now, and it is a breakthrough with the sometimes authoritarian in Mexico, not sure whether that idea has enough support to pass on either side of the border.
KING: That is a proposal going nowhere right now in the United States. President Bush has promised a much more friendly relationship with Mexico. That was his first international trip, the visit down to Mexico to see President Fox, and Mr. Bush promising to do more to combat illegal immigration, but also to open up the border.
He is working with the U.S. Congress right now on a new guest/worker program that would allow more Mexicans to come into the United States, and work -- make it much easier for Mexicans to come into the United States and work, and to save money while in the United States, and then return home to Mexico at the end of those visas.
But as for an open border right now, a non-starter in the United States. President Bush has said he would oppose that. There's very little support for that in the United States Congress. Trade is the major discussion here, although there will be some talk about immigration, and of course, about drug trafficking and prime focus, at least by President Bush, we're told, on democracy.
It is the president's view that all the nations represented here are democracies. Cuba, the one nation in the hemisphere not invited to the Summit of the Americas. One stipulation, they hope to put in that new free trade agreement is that any of the nations involved steered away from democracy, they would no longer be eligible to participate.
FRAZIER: John, I know that you have covered these in the past. I was in Switzerland recently for a gathering of the leaders, not the official gathering, but an economic summit at Davos, where the people meeting inside have no idea of what is going on outside. They're walled off from this. Is that your sense of what the arrangements are here?
KING: Well, there is a pretty big perimeter here. The chain- link fence you see -- and again, that's one of the lessons of Seattle. The protesters actually did get pretty close to the leaders meeting at the World Trade Organization in Seattle.
Can the leaders see what is going on? Yes they can, when their motorcades leave the meeting sites and go out. Most of them are now gathering for different meetings. President Bush here for several getting-to-know-you meeting, if you will, with leaders throughout the region. Only if they are outside, can they see what is going on, but certainly all of the staffs are attuned to the fact that there would be considerable protests here throughout the weekend, and there are television monitors throughout the summit site.
We can see it here in our workplace. I don't have to walk very far to get to the perimeter. The leaders -- most of the hotels, of course, are inside that secure perimeter. So if they do not want to see if, they don't have to see it, but they don't have to look very far or go very far to see the evidence of it.
FRAZIER: It's interesting, John King, as we're looking at these pictures now of police and protesters, apparently taking a bit of a breather from their closest confrontation. It looks like the protesters have regrouped at some distance, and are trying to get rid of the effects of the tear gas, and drinking a little bit of water, and just sort of consoling each other.
It's interesting to note which targets consider themselves vulnerable. We're reading here that McDonald's, which is often attacked during these protests, has removed not only -- had not only boarded up its windows and removed some of the signs, but has taken down the golden arches, because it's one of the most dramatic examples of globalization.
KING: Well, Stephen, back in France, the French farmer known for leading some of the protests against McDonald's there is said to be her to join the protest for this summit. So it is indeed those giant corporate signals -- corporate symbols that tend to draw some of the protesters at these events.
And as you can see there, some more tear gas, but it has calmed down considerably here. One of the most interesting dynamics of this is that not only the police train for these things, but the protesters train as well. They have a networks, some of them actually go away to learn how to try to infiltrate the police barricades. So, this has become a ritual if you will.
The leaders are gathering in ceremony, we're hearing national anthems and music, that's one ritual on the inside, the ceremonies. On the outside, this is, for better or worse, becoming a ritual of any of these major gatherings to discuss trade.
FRAZIER: That's right, we were showing pictures of one of those training sessions yesterday, in fact. And what has never been clear to me, John, is the use of those large cylinders made out of cardboard, into which the protesters insert their arms. I think they link up with those, but maybe it makes a little more difficult for the police to pick them up by the arms and take them away.
KING: I would assume you are exactly right in the goal of that. The police try, if it comes to that, and we have seen here the police trying more to push the protesters back and to use tear gas to drive them away than to actually round them up.
But the protesters do learn how to link arms, and use other tactics, and that is a way to try to stay together and to try to keep the police from breaking them up, and to try to have a force of their own, if they choose to break through the police barricades.
FRAZIER: We are watching also, John, in addition to this demonstration occurring before our cameras, that there are several others occurring along borders. We understand that protests are scheduled at Jackman, Maine, the main border with Canada. Detroit; Blaine, Washington; Cornwall and Buffalo, New York; and also on the border with Mexico in a couple of locations, as the San Diego/Tijuana crossing, perhaps the busiest in the world, where activists plan to raise banners and try to educate the tourists and truckers who are moving through there about the effects of this sort of trans-national free trade.
These are to coincide with the big rally tomorrow at the Summit of the Americas, where apparently now, some police are worried that there could be as many as 25,000 people gathering and due to march in Quebec City.
KING: That is correct. And as was the case in Seattle, we should point out that the overwhelming of these protesters are being quite peaceful. There were some over my shoulder here just a short time ago, then just outside the perimeter, holding signs. Occasionally from time to time, they chant. In Seattle, there was a problem with looting and some damage to businesses, and even many of the protest organizers complained after that that such conduct gave the protest movement a bad name.
Now, as for those protests in the United States, remember this is a debate that will carry on long after this weekend's summit. President Bush comes here embarrassed a bit, if you will, by the fact that he promised during the campaign to win from the Congress the broad authority to negotiate trade agreements.
He does not have that yet. He hasn't even submitted the legislation asking for it yet, knowing full well that when he does, it will be a major fight. Labor unions in the United States, environmental groups in the United States, rallying support to try to defeat the president when he seeks those broad powers. One way to do that: stage public demonstrations, stage protests, try to convince any lawmakers on the fence that a vote in favor of giving the president that broad trade negotiation authority may have political ramifications down the road.
FRAZIER: And John, as you so carefully pointed out, these pictures are showing us none of the violence we saw in Seattle. We've seen no looting of stores, no breakage of windows, no actual physical attacks on police with weapons other than stones, and the police themselves are showing a great amount of restraint, just lining up and facing down the demonstrators.
We are looking at about 1,000 demonstrators now, we believe, gathered in advance of the actual opening ceremonies, 1,000 demonstrators and as many as 6,000 police, all told.
KING: Stephen, if I can, I am going to bring in now Mark Walz. Mark is one of our veterans at CNN, a White House cameraman, he has seen events like this before. He was just moments ago out at the perimeter. Can you tell us a little bit more, Mark, about what you saw?
MARK WALZ, CNN CAMERAMAN: There was a couple of thousands protesters and heavy riot police. The protesters have broken through the barriers, and the tear gas looked like a fog coming in down the street, it was just debilitating.
KING: Now, did they immediately use tear gas, or did they wait until the protesters reach reached a certain point?
WALZ: When we got there, the barriers were already been broken down, and the police were using their night sticks and restraining some people that have gotten too far through the perimeter, and were taken away. They were -- some of them had bloody noses and looked like they were hurt in the stomach, or something like that. But it's an ugly scene up there.
KING: Now, you can look down here, Mark, and see the pictures from the scene here. Tear gas cloud. Were the police trying to repel them with the tear gas only, or did you see them trying to arrest them, or were just trying to drive them away?
WALZ: I think they were just trying to control them. Unfortunately, the wind is against the police and for the protesters. And the police would shoot the tear gas canisters in the crowd, and then the protesters would pick the tear gas back up and throw them at the cops. The -- so the tear gas didn't do that much, except for excite the crowd.
KING: All right. Mark Walz, we thank you very much, and we appreciate your bravery going out there in the middle of all that.
Stephen, as we continue to see the pictures here, you see still a crowd filtering around, and it's relatively calm now. But as you pull away to this -- we pull away to this wide shot here, you see the great number of people out there, and you see the police staying shoulder- to-shoulder still in their riot gear, just in case the protesters make another run at them.
FRAZIER: Interesting, John. And if Mark is still within your ear shot, I would be interested to hear whether he saw what the Associated Press is reporting, and that is that many of the protesters were carrying iron crowbars, which did not appear to have put into use yet, but they had them with them. Now, that is a rather ominous armament.
KING: Mark, Stephen is asking, saying that one of the wire reports said that many of the protesters were carrying iron crowbars. Not that they used them in any destructive way, but that they had those in their hands. Did you see anything like that?
WALZ: I didn't see that. No, I was putting snow in my eyes to get the tear gas out of it. I wasn't that close, but I am sure there was some destruction. I saw a couple of car windows that were bashed. That might have been by the protesters.
FRAZIER: A picture here now, John, which we hope is an act of symbolism. There is a young man lying spread-eagled on the street, and we hope that he is playing dead in protest to these police actions, and that he is not himself hurt. Nobody is going to his aid, so that would be my belief, and they are instead taking his picture. And it is a dramatic picture indeed, because he is enveloped in the kind of cloud of tear gas that Mark was describing to you just a moment ago.
KING: That's right. And as you can see, Stephen, some of the protesters have professional gas masks. Others just having small, like a surgical-like mask to cover their mouths, of course in full anticipation that the police would use tear gas to try to drive them away.
FRAZIER: Well, I don't know if you have ever been through this yourself, John, but it's totally debilitating, as Mark was saying. And you can tell that the police are totally unaffected, even though the wind is not working in their favor, because they came prepared. And it's not easy to see behind their riot masks, those large Plexiglas shields that they have snapped on over their helmets, but from some earlier pictures, we could tell that they were all already strapped into their masks.
KING: I have indeed had the pleasure, Stephen. Thank you.
FRAZIER: I am sorry to hear that. It is -- it is not only blinding, but it actually just takes away any motive to move at all. You just end up on your hands and knees gasping for breath.
KING: It's a striking contrast between the outside and the inside. You see these protests and demonstrations, and you were mentioning earlier, do the leaders even see this? As we speak and as the protesters are outside jousting from time to time with the police authorities, the leaders are inside. President Bush came, went into a meeting with Prime Minister Chretien. He's meeting now with leaders from Central and South America. The opening ceremony about two hours away, two hours and 20 minutes away by my count. And it's not that the leaders don't know this is going on and it's not that they're not affected by it, but they certainly also knew that this was going to happen, and they seem determined to go about their business. The big question will be can they make progress in those negotiations here and how much will they be affected by these protests?
Again, I think in a country like the United States where the president still has to win the negotiating authority here or if he doesn't win the negotiating authority, if he can get this trade agreement negotiated, would then have to submit it to the United States Congress, these pictures could have some effect on the political dynamic back in the United States.
And more and more, trade is an issue that now divides both political parties. It's not just the Democrats or those who are the allies of the labor unions. Trade is very much an issue now that divides both political parties and the president faces a very stiff challenge to win the authority, the broad negotiating powers. It's called trade promotion authority. It used to be called fast track.
One reason that he has submitted the legislation yet, even though during the campaign he said flat out, that the next president to attend the Summit of the Americas should go there with the trade negotiating authority, he hasn't even submitted the legislation yet. That very much of a reflection of how troublesome and divisive and very difficult a political trade has become.
FRAZIER: Part of his argument, John, of course, will be an extension of what President Clinton used to say, which is that an export boom in some of these countries would actually help to increase the climate and improve the climate for democracy and under examination at this time are the advance of some former coup leaders who were military officers, one-party leaders who've been elected to power recently in Venezuela, also Guatemala and Bolivia, and their ascension to power has sparked some fear of a return to the sort of dictatorship that dominated Latin America only a couple decades ago. The president saying earlier, perhaps at his arrival, reiterating that people who operate in open economies eventually demand more open societies.
KING: And the president will make that case here, and he made that case in a brief statement at the White House today before flying here that, exactly as you put it, that the open markets tend to lead to the open societies and that open markets eventually help those at the bottom of the economic latter make their way up.
The issue here, and the thing that becomes so divisive in these debates, is the short-term versus the long-term. No question in the short-term that the beneficiaries of these big trade deals tend to be the businesses, the corporations, and it is a tougher argument for the politicians to make. And you mention President Clinton's role in promoting trade during his administration, one footnote to the domestic political debate in the United States.
President Clinton, the Democrat in the White House, was able to twist some arms and win the support of some skeptical Democrats for these trade agreements. With a Republican president in the White House and a 50/50 United States Senate, it is more difficult to get any Democrats on the fence to cross over in favor of free trade now because they do not have a Democratic president twisting their arms.
So, in some ways, President Bush's challenge, political challenge, exacerbated by the fact that he faces a 50/50 Senate, a very evenly-divided House of Representatives and that President Clinton was able to swing some of the members of his party over. That will be a much more difficult challenge now with the Republican in the White House.
FRAZIER: Wonderful to have that depth of insight, John, and we're grateful for your joining here for this coverage. It's my understanding that we're to break you for a couple of moments so that you can gather up more news from inside the perimeter, and we're going to continue looking at these pictures of the perimeter, and turn for some expertise now to David Smith of the AFL-CIO to discuss that organization's concerns about what's going on inside. John thank you so much for joining us. We'll talk to you a little bit later.
Mr. Smith, are you able to hear us?
DAVID SMITH, AFL-CIO: I can, Stephen.
FRAZIER: Thank you for joining us, Mr. Smith. I know you're in our Washington bureau, but I know you're also able to see some of these pictures here. But let's talk about the issues, the background issues that brought up -- or actually brought to the floor inside the meeting while we continued to look at what's going on outside.
And part of that is your concern as an official of a trade union that the right of workers not be respected by some trade agreements; is that right?
SMITH: Well, that's certainly a big part of the issue, Stephen. The question facing the entire global community is whether or not in our rush toward greater global integration, greater integration of capital and labor markets, whether or not that will result in an improvement of standards of living; whether or not standards will go up or they'll be driven down as corporations seek to find lower wages, environments that are easier to despoil in the pursuit of profit.
We've been arguing that trade agreements ought to be structured so that fundamental norms are honored, that the parties to trade agreements ought to agree to support basic labor standards, to support internationally agreed upon environmental standard, and not to simply say that more trade in and of itself is the objective here. Our objective ought to be an improvement in the standards of living of ordinary people everywhere.
FRAZIER: Have you seen any examples of where trade agreements have been structured to include that kind of provision?
SMITH: Well, unfortunately, we have very few examples. But there are two that are worth mentioning: one relatively recent, that Congress has yet to act upon, but the United States and Jordan have agreed on a free-trade pact which obliges both countries to honor internationally agreed upon labor and environmental standards, and to adequately and effectively enforce their own laws. That's a good first step.
The European Union, as you know, has been going through a process of greater integration for several decades now, and as part of that, they paid careful attention to the development part of the equation. Countries like Greece and Spain, Portugal, Ireland, that were less developed than some of the richer European countries were able to negotiate a substantial commitment to development assistance that was aimed at, again, improving standards, harmonizing them upwards. Those are models which we can learn a lot from.
FRAZIER: When you say harmonizing them upwards, you sort of mean sharing the wealth so it's not leaving anyone behind. Is that what you mean?
SMITH: Well, we certainly mean that we shouldn't leave anyone behind. You know, there's a lot of myth about the virtues of trade, but think about what's happened with NAFTA, for instance. Trade has increased. Trade across both of our borders has increase in a way that one would hope that workers were better off.
FRAZIER: Let me interrupt, Mr. Smith, if I may, because these are complicated ideas and we would like to air them out at greater length. But right now, while we're looking at some dramatic pictures, which I believe are moments ago on some videotape, we'd like to bring in the voice of Mike Armstrong, our colleague from Global TV in Canada, who was in the thick of all of this as it was occurring.
Mr. Armstrong, can you hear us?
MIKE ARMSTRONG, GLOBAL TV REPORTER: I can indeed, sir.
FRAZIER: Can you tell us what happened to you?
ARMSTRONG: Well, we're parked right up near the line, which seemed like a good spot to be in a few hours ago. It turned out not to be a great spot. This is a park that is right up against the fence, the perimeter fence that's been set up around the secure area where all the leaders are meeting, and several rallies, several marches congregated in this park almost two hours ago, and that's when things turned violence.
They tore down the fence, and then the riot squads pulled up from the inside. There are about 6,000 police officers in this city today, and they seem to mostly be here tonight. We've got riot police on just about each side right now, and they're closing in. Tear gas canisters have been flying for at least over an hour right now, and protesters have been throwing them back. A lot of these protesters did come prepared maybe with bandanna, but a quite a few with gas mask, and they're using them right now, I'll tell you.
FRAZIER: Although the pictures that we're showing as you're talking to us, Mike Armstrong, show a little bit of restraint on the part of the police as protesters use a lot of body weight and muscle power to tear down the chain link and use their leverage to tip it over and the concrete barriers that go with it. As they were doing that, they were left alone, is that right?
ARMSTRONG: It would appear so. There weren't as many police around at that point as there are right now. It's quite a scene. There are quite a few police officers now. The protesters seem to be moving back in to get in front of the police officers. It's a bit of a standoff, and quite a scene.
FRAZIER: Well, we're looking at some pictures which were made earlier by some of our CNN crews actually on the ground, and, yes, when you get in the middle of it, it looks quite a bit more violent than our long shots, as we were showing. The rocks are much bigger, and do a lot more harm, and the police, in fact, are wielding their batons. Were you near any of that, Mike Armstrong?
ARMSTRONG: Oh, we're right near it, actually. I can see right now rocks being thrown at police officers, very large rocks, bigger than softballs. And they're coming -- they've actually got protesters on both side of them, so they're coming from both in front and in back.
A lot of cameras, I'll mention, as well. A lot of the protesters have brought cameras, and they're taking pictures of just about everything that goes on, still cameras and video cameras, and the police also have their own cameras. As I speak to you, the police are moving, setting up it would appear, maybe a perimeter, again, and slowly moving in. No tear gas for at least a few minutes now.
FRAZIER: We are looking at what look to be homemade catapults or something being wheeled around by the protesters. It's not clear to me what that is. Is that within your line of sight, Mike Armstrong?
ARMSTRONG: I'm looking around. I don't see that right now. It was -- they had billed this as a carnival. And you know, a lot of people showed up with some very interesting things. We had one lady dressed -- oh, here comes the gas. Excuse me. I'm going to be moving.
Tear gas canisters flying over me. Crowd is starting to run. And then, as happens, we've seen as soon as people start to run, people start to yell, "Walk." Because that's when it gets very dangerous as the crowd starts to move quickly. I don't know if you can hear them or see them -- oh, geez -- we are getting hit now. It's a slightly windy day and the tear gas is wafting right this way.
I am going to put my gas mask on. Hold on just one moment, please.
FRAZIER: I'll be curious to hear how you sound, Mike Armstrong, with your mask on. I hope it's working, though.
ARMSTRONG: I hope you can hear me. I may have gotten it on about five seconds too late, but there's quite a bit of smoke right now. FRAZIER: We can hear you just fine, thank you. So, what's the effect on you personally, Mike Armstrong, if there's some gas inside your mask?
ARMSTRONG: Well, you feel it in your throat -- quite gravelly. Hurts quite a bit and in your eyes. Police are now moving forward towards the crowd, and still hurling canisters. They are still coming. People are picking them up, throwing them back. Now the canisters are coming from several directions actually flying directly overhead, all the way overhead. We're getting the gas from both sides now.
FRAZIER: When these canisters are actually spewing the gas, Mike Armstrong, are they hot to the touch?
ARMSTRONG: I thought they would be, but I see people picking them up without gloves and throwing them back. I don't believe so, although they don't hold on to them very long. So that's possible.
FRAZIER: And what affect is this having on the crowd of demonstrators?
ARMSTRONG: Well, I'm in a crowd of probably about 100 people. And many of them are already -- excuse me, police are now addressing the crowd asking them to leave. This is the first time we've heard from police. They are using loud speakers to tell the crowd, saying, "this is the Quebec City police and we are asking you to leave."
FRAZIER: And how is the crowd responding to that request?
ARMSTRONG: Oh, they're not listening very much, I'd have to say at this point. But there's a lot of smoke now.
FRAZIER: And are the police saying -- I'm sorry, go ahead.
ARMSTRONG: As I said, it is coming from both sides. And I can see there are quite a few police officers. Possibly five or six hundred.
FRAZIER: And are the police saying what they'll do if the crowd does now disburse?
ARMSTRONG: They are not as of yet. We've only heard a couple of sentences from them right now just asking the crowd to leave. We also have helicopters that have been overhead all day and they have been watching things. And they've got a lot of see. A lot of the media trucks were parked here to cover this event and it would appear we've too closely because -- Global Television -- we had a few windows broken on our satellite truck. The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) satellite truck (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and had a lot of windows broken. A few other networks as well with quite a bit of damage. We thought were where in a good spot, doesn't look like it.
FRAZIER: Well, now, I'd be curious if you can see, Mike, whether there's any extension of that kind of window breaking to the stores nearby. I know you're near the old city where there's not a lot of retail development, but we did hear...
ARMSTRONG: The area really is more or less residential on one side, and museums and things like that on the other. Now I will mention a lot of the businesses in this area have boarded up for this event, just in case of this, having seen what happened in Seattle. For example, the McDonald's in Old Quebec took down all its signs, boarded up all the windows.
(UNINTELLIGIBLE) every commerce, every business along that street is boarded up. And that was more or less ground zero for a lot of the protesters. It was thought because it's visible from the convention center where the leaders will be meeting. But right now it really would appear that this is ground zero, here in this park.
FRAZIER: Now we're looking at, what I believe, is a live picture now, Mike Armstrong, an awful lot of smoke now. Is it disbursing at all.
ARMSTRONG: No. I can still hear canisters coming. I'm actually wearing a gas mask and a helmet because the gas canisters are fired into the air, and then they come down and as soon as you hear the bang go off you really have to look to make sure it's not going to hit you, because they come down from very far.
I can see several more riot -- dozens more riot police coming in right now as well as what looks like journalists. Now, I'm on the outside of the fence. There're a lot of journalist inside covering the event from where the leaders are, and it looks like a lot of those journalists are coming out to get a point of view -- a different point of view. They actually see everything from the inside looking out. So they are seeing the backs of the police if that helps you understand.
FRAZIER: It does. It's a good description of the physical layout there, and we're grateful for that. I'm wondering now whether the demonstrators have moved back at all and are trying to regroup, or are they standing there breathing all this in, as you are?
ARMSTRONG: I would say about 99 percent of the demonstrators have moved away. Right now there's only about 10 or 15 people directly in front dancing, and all of them are wearing the gas masks or bandannas and things like that. And there are a few sitting down directly in front. A couple others taking pictures and several dancing, just sort of trying to get in the face of police officers, if I can use the expression.
FRAZIER: Indeed, and is it your sense, now, Mike Armstrong, that we're past the point of, sort of, an organized chant or specific political point being articulated by the demonstrators. They're just trying to bust things up and create general havoc with their movements now?
ARMSTRONG: Well, it's interesting, because there were so many different groups here this week, all here to get different points across: Anti-globalization, anti-free trade, and people against genetically modified food, all sorts of different points. And that was a challenge for the organizers because they wanted to have all those voices heard. They actually had several different marches. And they took all the marches and they assigned them a color, be it green, yellow or red.
Green was supposed to be very peaceful, artistic event. Yellow -- a bit more risk of being arrested. And then the red demonstrations were the ones where there was going to be direct confrontation with the police, and a good chance of ending up behind bars, being arrested. And this event was supposed to be a spot where several demonstrations would all congregate, come together, and at the red, people who were ready to be arrested would go to the front. That appears to be just what happened, although haven't had anybody arrested.
FRAZIER: But that is a very dramatic description, Mike, of the level of organization brought to this protest.
ARMSTRONG: Absolutely. There's been an alternate summit that went on during the week and wrapped up yesterday. And that -- oh, more tear gas coming -- that was a chance for the people with opposing views -- people who are fighting for all these different reasons to get together. And then yesterday they released their final document which was a look at their arguments, basically, because the leaders will come out with their own document, probably tomorrow -- more tear gas coming down, people screaming. So it was a very, very big event, and it wrapped up prior to the leaders summit. And this was supposed to be the end of that summit and then the beginning of the protests as the leaders arrived and throughout the weekend. There were supposed to be a couple more. It will be interesting to see what this weekend because the leaders are still here until Sunday.
FRAZIER: Let's recap, Mike, for the sake of the viewers who are just joining us. We are on the telephone now, with Mike Armstrong of Global TV in Canada who is wearing a gas mask, and which is impeding the sound of his voice just a little bit, but we hear him just enough to understand what he's telling us. And he is in the middle of this confrontation between the demonstrators who are protesting the political activities inside the Summit Of The Americas in Quebec City.
He's between them and lines of police, which are formed at a breach of the perimeter fence created earlier by authorities -- a two- mile fence and barrier, which is has gone up to keep this kind of demonstration at some distance from the world leaders, who are gathered inside, all 34 of them from the nations from the Western Hemisphere.
And the protesters have breached that barrier, have tipped over the concrete barriers and the chain-link fence on top of that. Police have moved into the breach and are keeping the protesters back and are moving them back both with a human line and with tear gas, which they're firing at the crowd, and Mike Armstrong is in the middle of that gas.
Mike, are you still able to talk?
ARMSTRONG: Excuse me, I missed that comment.
FRAZIER: I'm just wondering if you're still able to talk to us with all of the gas?
ARMSTRONG: Oh, I am, indeed. I am indeed. I'll mention -- I'm going to take a moment to talk about that fence. As you said, it's the perimeter fence that has been set up around a very large area. Dozens of streets are blocked in Quebec City, and that's where the leaders are working and staying, most of the hotels, and actually not far from President Bush's, I can see in the distance. And that was supposed to protect them.
But a lot of the people, a lot of demonstrators have been very upset. -- oh, excuse me. The riot police just ran about five meters and then stopped. They ran right over some of the protesters who are sitting in the road. They are picking them up, firing more tear gas of -- excuse me. And as I said earlier, it goes very high and then it comes down.
They firing it over where our satellite truck -- excuse me, satellite truck set up so that the gas is actually blowing back, and at the same time, people are still picking up the gas canisters and throwing them back at police officers. Now, there are protesters who are just standing in front of the riots police, showing their V-for- victory signs.
FRAZIER: I have to ask you, Mike Armstrong, since you're so deeply in the middle of all of this, are you wearing anything, any kind of badge or certification or press presses that would let police know you're not one of the demonstrators? Since you're not wearing a gas mask, it's pretty hard to tell who you are.
ARMSTRONG: Yes, I'm with Global Television, and so I am wearing a sweater, actually, that has Global on it. There's official certification. There's heavy, heavy, heavy security to get into the perimeter, and we're credited to get inside.
So, I had earlier, when I was in the middle of the protesters, I had put that card away and stuck it inside of my jacket but I've now taken it out just as the police have come forward, and I'll also add that I'm not going very far from our satellite truck, which is very visible, and we have -- a couple of occasions we've actually had to get inside, as the crowd was coming back, go inside the satellite truck, close the door so as not to get caught up in the crowd and it's quite a scene here.
FRAZIER: Now, as you...
ARMSTRONG: Excuse me, as I talk too much, then I start to lose breath because I am wearing the gas mask and you can't take as much breath as you might like.
FRAZIER: Go ahead and catch your breath.
ARMSTRONG: But the alternative is much worse. FRAZIER: Indeed, both John King, our senior White House correspondent, and I have been in the middle of that. And you are right, it's not a pleasant experience.
ARMSTRONG: Not at all.
FRAZIER: When we were talking to you, just one last question, Mike, before we let you catch your breath, we heard of what sounded like a lot of screaming in the area around you, which we could pick up on your telephone. What was that all about?
ARMSTRONG: Well, as the gas canisters go off, there is a lot of screaming, and that's basically what it is. People are trying to get away from the gas mask -- excuse me, get away from the gas canisters. Police are now probably about 10 meters in front of where the fence was. Moving very, very slowly, as the crowd moves back.
There's now a buffer, I would say between the majority of the protesters, about 95 percent of the protesters. There's now about 100 meters between that group and the line that police have formed right now. There are still some stragglers in between, but basically there's a good delineation of where the two crowds are.
FRAZIER: Well, let's ask you, Mike Armstrong, to take a break and catch your breath. I'm afraid we're going to work you to death before this things airs out. So, take a break and we're going to turn to our John King, who is inside the perimeter. Our senior White House correspondent was on camera a moment ago, on a camera that at least I could see, and it looked, John, from the pictures as though you got a good face full of tear gas.
KING: You had to ask a little earlier, Stephen, didn't you, whether I had ever had this experience, and I had in the past and yes, I have been reminded again. I was about 100 yards away from one of the perimeters near the summit site where a good group of protesters, several dozen, started shaking the fence so violently that about 25 police officers who had been watching them from inside of the perimeter walked back in formation to a white van, retrieved some tear gas, and then came out and fired that tear gas.
And as our cameraman Mark Walz mentioned earlier, the wind in some ways working against the officers right now. They fired that outside the perimeter, but the wind blowing it right back in one the officers and the location that I was at just a few yards away. It has, of course, dispersed now, and it's not the most pleasant of feelings, but we're seeing this at several sites now. You see more clouds there in the pictures, several sites around the perimeter now.
FRAZIER: In fact, showing live picture of that right now, John, and it's interesting what Mike Armstrong was telling us just as you are were wiring back up and that is that some of the people working on this, I'm not sure all of the leaders, but many of them will actually spend this entire weekend inside the conference center. There's not a whole lot of travel, their accommodations are there, and if you were so inclined, you could spend the whole time working on the issues and never getting a sense of what's happening out where you are? KING: That is correct. Although we can report -- President Bush -- and excuse me, I may sneeze here. President Bush was supposed to have a meeting with many Central American leaders this afternoon. We're told that the presidents of Bolivia and Brazil did not make it, could not make it because of security precautions. They had gone back to their hotels and were advised to stay inside the hotels instead of coming out of the hotels during these protests.
FRAZIER: Well, now, that's exactly the kind of disruption that these protesters are intending to accomplish?
KING: That is indeed correct. Most of the meetings going on, the opening ceremonies now less than two hours away, but certainly, the protesters came here to make a point that they oppose the trade negotiations and the trade discussions that are dominating the talk here at the 34 nation summit and any time they can disrupt things, obviously, they believe they have made a point.
FRAZIER: John, we are joined, as you're talking to me now, by David Smith of the AFL-CIO, who has been watching all of this from a little bit of a safer perch in Washington, D.C. Mr. Smith, we're glad you're not in the middle of all this, but we're grateful for you joining us. You were telling us that Europe seems to have moved in the same direction when it comes to a free trade zones, but with other considerations that you consider kindlier to the environment and to some workers.
SMITH: Well, I think that that is right, Steve. The lessons we can learn from the European experience are the importance of a development strategy that really addresses the questions of both geographic and labor market and equality.
The Europeans understood that it would be enormously difficult to integrate the less-developed countries into the E.U. unless they provided substantial development assistance and unless all of the countries were obliged to ensure that standards were harmonized upwards. They did that.
Our own experience has been that we've ignored that effort. We've ignored the development needs of our brothers and sisters in South and Central America. We've assumed that more trade in and of itself would produce desired social outcomes. I think the lessons are it doesn't work that way. Unless we insist that trade's purpose is to improve standards of living, that we end up in the situation where investors, sensibly, from their point of view, investors seek out workers who are easier to pay less, environments that are easier to trash, standards decline rather than advance. That ought not to be our objective. Our objective ought to be to improve the standards of living of everybody.
FRAZIER: Let's turn, with that kind of insight, Mr. Smith, to John King, who is privy to the president's thinking as he goes into these meetings and ask if any of those ideas, John, will be addressed by American trade negotiators.
KING: Certainly they're being addressed, not to the satisfaction, at least as yet, of the AFL-CIO, and I should mention, Stephen, that once again, at the spot about 100 yards from me, the police have returned and fired several more canisters of tear gas, which is wafting our way now. What Mr. Bush has proposed is not sanctions, but perhaps fines if there were violations of labor standards.
But he is -- one of the problems here is you have 34 nations trying to negotiate a trade agreement, as even if Mr. Bush wanted to put in there strict labor and environmental, and his critics would say that he does not, it would be very difficult to get many of the nations, especially the less developed nations, to go along with it.
So, he's trying to negotiate, on the one hand, with 33 other nations and then, on the other hand, create a political environment in the United States where he could either get the broad negotiating powers that he wants, and if he gets that, Congress would have to vote yes or no, up or down, much as it did on NAFTA back in 1994. Or in the converse, he would have to negotiate a trade agreement and then submit it to the Congress, and the Congress could offer amendments.
But it most likely they could ever get a trade agreement under those circumstances. Countries like Brazil, very reluctant to sign on to begin with, these leaders very unlikely to make the key concessions necessary until they are convinced that Mr. Bush has the authority and that this will only be one vote in the United States Congress.
FRAZIER: I have a couple of more questions of policy for you, John, but you're doing a marvelous job of talking on two levels: one is these abstractions of policy making and the other is the specifics of what's happening all around you. It looks, from the pictures we are seeing now live from our colleagues at the CBC, that there's a moment's pause here.
KING: A moment's pause at that site you're seeing. There are -- this is quite a large area walled off or fenced off, if you will, inside the perimeter and relative calm there. although I can see up the street that they've just brought back the van, and again, I see police officers in their riot gear making their way back toward a small section of the perimeter near where I am, and still some clouds of tear gas wafting up.
So, it appears much calmer than it was just a short time ago, but at least some isolated areas where the police seem concerned enough that they are moving closer to the perimeter and inside these vans are their then in the night sticks and the rest of their riot gear, but also supplies of tear gas.
FRAZIER: And the pictures we're showing, in fact, are police in a different kind of uniform. We know many agencies are contributing to these forces. Upward of 6,000 police have come in from many of the Canadian provinces in anticipation of these events.
We are going to lose David Smith of the AFL-CIO in a couple of minutes, so let me ask you, Mr. Smith: if you could give us some sense of your expertise, when you look at what happened with the United States' engagement with China. Everybody talks about China. It's huge market there, and how engagement through trade will raise the standard of living there. What is your sense of how that has worked?
SMITH: Well, I don't think that we -- we've seen the argument the theorists point out in the China, Steve. The prevalence of export processing zones where labor standards are ignored -- you are familiar with the tragic stories of the dynamite -- of the fireworks factory blast that killed young children in the school, as they were producing fireworks for sale in the Chinese market.
Trade unions, independent trade unions are illegal in the People's Republic, and day after day -- this morning, again, we heard of another independent academic being arrested, apparently, because of his relationship with some of the reporting on the Tiananmen Square massacre.
FRAZIER: That is a political issue rather than an economic one. But you link the two?
SMITH: But they are related. You know, the president has argued in recent days that if you have enough trade, democracy and human rights will follow. Our trade with the People's Republic of China has exploded exponentially after the last two decades, and there is no evidence at all that democracy and human rights follow.
FRAZIER: As we're talking -- I have to interrupt you here, David Smith, because I am sure that you will have a memory of this kind of scene from the Vietnam War protest. But you see this young lady walking along -- if this shot is available to you in the Washington bureau -- walking along the mast ranks of police here with a flower that she is showing them.
FRAZIER: And if there were gun barrels there, perhaps she would try to mimic that very famous picture from Vietnam War protest where they'd stuff flowers into the barrels of the guns.
SMITH: Right. Steve, if I could, let me return to something that John said earlier.
FRAZIER: You bet.
SMITH: He has reminded us that we have a focus -- a tendency to focus on the white male English speakers in the crowd. But you know, over the last three days, there have been people from all over the hemisphere, from virtually every country in the hemisphere, meeting in the people's summit, raising their concerns about what would happen to workers' rights, what would happen to environmental standards.
It's not just North Americans. It's trade unions from Brazil, from Argentina, from Chile, from all over the Caribbean, and I think it's important to keep that in mind. That this is not a North/South question.
The question here is, are we going to enact of a set of trade policies, which, in effect, empower corporation, make it more difficult for governments to regulate on behalf of public health, of public safety, of worker's rights, or are we going to open up this process up, focus on development, make it clear that our objective is to improve standards of living, not simply more trade.
FRAZIER: Without those standards, if I understand you correctly, you describe this as a race to the bottom?
SMITH: Well, I think that that is what we have seen. We see exporting processing zones in Latin American countries advertise that they are union-free, advertise that -- that the domestic labor laws don't apply in the export processing zones. As we view independent efforts to organize trade unions in the maquiladoras crushed without the governments stepping in, and enforcing its own labor laws.
FRAZIER: That word you just used there, that word you just used meaning the factories which are located along the border.
SMITH: Along the border in this very large now, almost 1.3 million workers. In effect, it is a giant export platform. If the products being made along the our southern border and the northern Mexican border were being consumed by Mexican, if Mexican standards of living were going up, this would be a very different story.
But they are not. We are seeing Mexican workers producing for export, while their own real wages decline. That is more trade, for sure, in both directions, both our exports to Mexico and our imports from Mexico are up, but Mexican standards of living have been improved, while several hundred thousand Americans have lost their jobs.
So, we've got to figure out how to make the -- the standards by which we view trade agreements broader than simply the quantity of goods.
SMITH: We now have a trade deficit with China of almost $60 billion. Standards of living in China haven't improved. Our trade deficit sores to unsustainable proportions, and the democracy that the president promises is nowhere in sight.
FRAZIER: Well, David Smith of the AFL-CIO, we are grateful for your joining us and for your insights, as we watch these pictures from Quebec City. I understand we are going to lose you to some other engagements, but...
SMITH: I am going to have to leave in about five minutes. I am happy to stay for those if you can use me.
FRAZIER: Well, let's see how it goes.
We want to weave back to John King, our senior White House correspondent who is in the middle of all this, and tell you, John, as we do, that we also have available to us Bill Schneider in our Washington bureau for his sense of the political ramifications for the president of all of this as he deals with the Congress as you described to us earlier. KING: Well, Stephen, it appears a little bit calmer here. At the location I can see, the police are standing in formation, but the protesters have pulled back a little bit on the other side of the perimeter, and the police seem a bit more relaxed. They're still standing in a line and watching out there.
You see there, relatively peaceful scene as well -- and as you were remarking earlier, the picture of the woman with the flower. So, a period of calm here. Of course, the summit has yet to begin, and we expect more and more protests as the weekend summit goes on.
As for the political dilemma facing the president, remember, he has yet to even submit the legislation to grant him the broad negotiating powers. He would need to make this a reality. Very few believe that the nations on hand here that must make concessions -- Brazil, one of the large ones among them -- are willing to make those concession to make this free trade agreement a reality, if -- if they believe it would have to go to the United States Congress and be subject to amendment.
So, the president is facing a very difficult fight back home. And as Bill, I'm sure can tell you, with the 2002 midterm elections coming up, many lawmakers who might need the support of labor unions, might need the support of environmental groups, will be not only looking at these pictures but looking at this issue very, very closely.
FRAZIER: Bill, you're in Washington, if you can hear us. What John is describing is the kind of authority we used to call "fast track," I guess, where he could sort of go at it alone.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. He wants the authority to be able to -- you know, offer trade agreement for approval or disapproval by Congress, and Congress is not allowed to make amendments. That makes it much easier for the president of the United States to negotiate with other countries, because then they know that Congress cannot tack on special provisions to change the deals that have already been made.
FRAZIER: What do you think the American public thinks of this kind of issue now? Bill, it's been, you know, six years since Ross Perot talked about that sucking sound that was going to take jobs down to Mexico. I'm not sure what the public at large is making of all of this?
SCHNEIDER: Well, you know, what this looks like to a lot of people is a nostalgia trip. We just saw that picture, and you were waxing nostalgic about the Vietnam demonstrations, putting the flowers in the rifles in front of the Pentagon, and this was clearly an imitation of that. We saw people carrying red flags with Soviet hammers and sickles. I mean, what's that about? Don't these people know that's over?
I mean, one of the problems is that it's kind of hard for ordinary Americans to connect with these people. What they are trying to do is turn this issue, which is a highly technical issue, into something deeply and emotionally controversial, a major political controversy. It is controversial, because there are labor unions, there are environmental activists who oppose these kinds of agreements.
I think there's one thing they have on their side, which they didn't have in Seattle, and that is the downturn, the slowdown in the economy. When the economy was booming, as it was a couple of years ago, when they had the Seattle protests, the Americans looked at them and said, what are they so upset about? Why are they torching Starbucks and attacking The Gap? What's their problem?
But now, Americans may be a little bit more sympathetic to their protests, because they're very worried about what's happening with the economy, and because they have a different president, George Bush, not Bill Clinton, and George Bush looks like the president who is very close to corporate America.
FRAZIER: Bill, as we talking, I'm sure you can see here that the amount of tear gas fired into the crowd has increased dramatically during your comments, and now it's almost a complete haze separating them from authorities.
SCHNEIDER: Well, that's right. I mean, but again, what they are trying to say is, if you, the leaders of this hemisphere, want to implement a free trade agreement, you're going to have to deal with tremendous amounts of political controversy. They're claiming to represent the vanguard of that controversy in the streets of Quebec City. The question is, how deep does that controversy run in the streets of New York and Los Angeles and Chicago?
FRAZIER: Has anybody tracked, Bill, to your knowledge, whether there have been factories closed down in the United States since the enactment of NAFTA? For example, how many jobs might have been lost? I know David Smith mentioned that jobs were transferred from the United States to Mexico, but I don't think I've seen anyone bring out a tracking mechanism.
SCHNEIDER: Well, I've seen some efforts to track, and they're usually made by interested parties that are trying to make a case on one side or the other. But I think the preponderance of evidence suggests that there have been jobs lost, mostly lower-skill jobs, where the competing workers in third-world countries, and Latin America and in Mexico, can work for lower wages.
But there have also been jobs gained in export industries. So it's really a trade-off. We lose low-skilled jobs, we gain other jobs at various levels of skill. The question is: Is it worth that kind of tradeoff for most Americans?
FRAZIER: You describe this a moment ago, Bill, as a very technical issue. And I know it is. I remember during my time based in Tokyo, trying to describe the sort of non-tariff sneaky little barriers that they would employ there to keep out products from nations they didn't want to import -- how difficult it was to explain all of that. SCHNEIDER: It is. But I think the point the protesters are trying to make is, this is a conspiracy by gigantic global corporate interests to take advantage of ordinary people, to lower their wages, and to make a lot of money. That's the point they're trying to get across.
FRAZIER: Well, John, we're watching pictures now of what looked like an effort to storm the barriers there. It looked it was tape, and we rewound the tape to get a better look at it. But John King, if you're still with us, can you give us some sense of whether we're back in the dancing mode now, in the taunting mode, or whether we're -- where it's going to get confrontational.
KING: Well, Stephen, this appears to be, if you will, a feeling- out period, a bit of a warm-up act, and a testing by the protesters of the police presence here. Again, the summit has not even officially opened. It will do so at 6:30 here tonight, about an hour and a half away now. A little more than an hour and a half away. And what we have had is the pressure points move around to different points of the perimeter.
At the location I spoke to you earlier about, I'm now looking up the street 100 yards, and I see police filing two-by-two in their riot gear with night sticks and shields. I've counted 20 so far and the line goes all the way up the hill behind it. It looks like there are dozens now coming back down the hill to establish a point at the perimeter.
We were warned just a few moments ago that at another spot behind me, there appear to be protesters massing. And the police were a little worried about that. It appears they are going to different points around the perimeter test the security, and to make themselves -- at least to make themselves seen and known at various points around the perimeter. And again, the summit has yet to officially open.
FRAZIER: What we're showing, John, as you describe the scene to us, is a confrontation demonstrators are in fact face-to-face with authorities. And now this particular moment looks to be a booking of a protester. We've got reading that several have been arrested. They put plastic ties around their hands and put them into a van.
And what we just saw a moment ago, these are live pictures now, and we're going to stay with these pictures. But what we just was sort of a mug shot there. A police photographer taking a picture, another policeman holding a clipboard under the face of the protester, in preparation of taking him off in the van. And it looks to be a little bit of a rumble, what we can see now, John.
KING: This, Stephen, very much what the -- not only the police, but what the political organizers of this summit did not want to happen. They knew there would be protests. They knew there would be some confrontations, and of course, they expected to use tear gas and other means to try to disperse them.
What they were hoping is to avoid any hand-to-hand fighting, wrestling, and jousting, as you just saw there. Has to be a troubling and disturbing sign, not only to the police, but to the political leaders here as well, that already, you see scenes like this, as the summit prepares to begin.
FRAZIER: Well, John, as you mentioned, we're still about an hour and a half away from the opening remarks and the welcoming ceremonies. As we see these pictures here of the police lining up and stepping their way forward one step at a time, we're going ourselves to step away for about a two-minute break. I hope you can stay out of the gas during that time. And we'll all be back in just a short bit, so please don't go away.
Stay with us.
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