New World Trade Organisation chief Mike Moore has launched an impassioned defence of free trade to unionists, warning the debate over labour was 'destructive and confusing'. Stopping short of echoing White House demands for this week's Seattle sessions to solidify WTO involvement in labour standards, Mr Moore said there was no contradiction between trade and unions. 'Open economies, imperfect as they are, have delivered more jobs, opportunities and security to more people than the alternatives,' he said in an address to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. 'There are benefits in this backlash to globalisation, which we ignore at our peril. It is true that the benefits of the global economy are not evenly shared . . . but the vulnerable are not helped by blocking trade, restricting investment and making economies poorer.' He warned sanctions would keep developing nations' living standards poor and labour conditions bad, adding traditional international union brotherhood was becoming lost in 'demonising globalisation'. Previous protectionist eras had led to fascism and Marxism in the Great Depression, he warned. 'Poverty, not trade, is the main cause of unacceptable working conditions and environmental degradation,' said Mr Moore, during his first major speech in a week that will test his controversial tenure at the WTO's helm. The week-long ministerial meeting must recover from divisive preliminary meetings for a new global trade liberalisation round amid protests from activist groups. After a drawn-out battle Mr Moore agreed in July to a split term with Thailand Deputy Prime Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi, who will take over in three years. Mr Moore was heavily backed by the United States, raising fears across Asia that he could be a US labour stooge. US Vice-President Al Gore is pushing for a comprehensive working group on labour standards against Asian objections - a drive fuelled by upcoming presidential elections and his need for union support. Mr Moore, however, stopped short of specifics, backing only earlier policies that recognised the International Labour Organisation's role and sought closer ties with global bodies. US leaders have also strongly supported free trade in recent weeks but stress more attention must be paid to labour and the environment, which some members say could be used as protectionist 'clubs' against the developing world.