The Clinton Administration is calling on Congress
to extend China's normal trade relations (NTR) status on a
permanent basis at the earliest possible date. The Administration
sent proposed language for such action to Capitol Hill on March 8.
It is important that any legislation eventually approved by
Congress enables the United States to benefit from the landmark
trade agreement concluded with China last November. But it is
critical that Congress not allow the Administration's haste in this
matter to hinder its own consideration of other priority interests
with China, such as national security and human rights.
earliest possible date that this latest U.S.-China trade agreement
will enter into force is the day that China officially joins the
World Trade Organization (WTO). Although China has concluded the
requisite bilateral trade agreement with the United States, similar
agreements with other trading partners (most notably the European
Union) remain under negotiation. After these other bilateral
agreements are reached, the WTO must assimilate them into a common
accession protocol determining the rules and commitments that will
govern China's membership. Only then will China be able to join the
the European Union bilateral trade agreement still outstanding, it
is premature to vote on China's permanent normal trade status.
Agreement could be reached soon, but it appears more likely that
negotiations will carry on for much of this year. This would delay
the drafting of China's accession protocol significantly and likely
put off WTO membership until 2001 or later. The United States gains
nothing by rushing ahead of this process to approve a permanent
extension of China's NTR status. This would send an undesirable
message to China and the American people that securing China's
membership in the WTO is more important than addressing significant
security and human rights concerns, or even public disclosure of
Before considering any vote to permanently
extend normal trade relations with China, the United States
Review the Export Administration Act
The Administration allowed relations with China to be dominated by
trade. Trade is an important factor in promoting freedom in China
by expanding the private sector, but it should be part of a more
comprehensive strategy that protects U.S. security first and then
promotes freedom. Before making China's trade status permanent,
Washington should demonstrate its commitment to security by
reviewing the terms of the Export Administration Act to ensure that
sufficient controls over sensitive dual-use technology exports to
China are maintained. This would help demonstrate that national
security is more important than commerce in dealing with China.
Enhance Taiwan's security.
On March 18, the people of Taiwan will elect a new president.
In the days before this election, China has chosen coercion over
conciliation in projecting its interests into the contest. On
February 21, China released an 11,000-word White Paper broadening
the conditions under which Beijing would use military force against
Taiwan to include an indefinite delay of unification talks on
Beijing's terms. More pressing than a premature endorsement of
China's WTO membership is a demonstration of U.S. support for
Taiwan's democracy and the security it needs in order to enter into
negotiations with Beijing. The House led the way on February 1 by
passing the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act (H.R. 1838) by a vote
of 341-71. It is now up to the Senate to move ahead.
Address human rights.
According to the just-released State Department 1999 Human Rights
Country Report, China's "poor human rights record deteriorated
markedly throughout the year, as the government intensified efforts
to suppress dissent, particularly organized dissent." Crackdowns on
the fledgling China Democracy Party and the Falun Gong spiritual
movement demonstrate Beijing's severe intolerance. Although the
annual debate in Congress over China's trade status has not led to
marked improvement in the government's treatment of Chinese people
who think for themselves, neither is trade alone the solution. As
the Congress considers permanent trade relations with China, the
Administration should also consult with Congress to devise a more
comprehensive approach to promoting freedom in China, one that
fosters the foundations of democracy (for example, the rule of law
and freedom of information and association) and empowers the
Chinese people to reform their government as they see fit. Counting
on trade promotion and half-hearted denunciations at the United
Nations alone will not drive systemic change in China.
- Declassify the U.S.-China trade
The broad terms of the U.S.-China bilateral trade deal have
been released by the U.S. Trade Representative and widely
publicized by the business community. The details of the deal
remain classified because "negotiations are ongoing." While the
Administration is not required to declassify the details, neither
should it ask for tacit ratification of an unfinished agreement.
When the negotiations are concluded, the deal should be
declassified and its terms subject to the same level of public
scrutiny as such other major trade agreements as the North American
Free Trade Agreement.
Administration's goal of normalized trade relations with China is
correct, but its haste is unwarranted. Conclusion of negotiations
with the European Union and public scrutiny of China's accession
protocol will make it easier for Congress to approve permanent
normal trade relations with China. In the meantime, the United
States should make clear its determination to protect U.S. security
and support democracy before and after China becomes a member of
the World Trade Organization.
Stephen J. Yates is a former Senior Policy
Analyst for China in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage