Iowa Public Television

 

House members still on the fence over China trade deal

posted on May 19, 2000


DEBATE IN WASHINGTON HAS SLOWED CONSIDERABLY AS MEMBERS OF CONGRESS BECOME MORE AWARE OF THE ELECTION IMPLICATIONS POSED BY EVERY PIECE OF LEGISLATION.

HOWEVER, THERE REMAINS A MATTER THAT IS CAUSING BI-PARTISAN ANGST AMONG THE ELECTED.

AT ISSUE IS WHAT TO DO ABOUT CHINA.

THE NATION OF CHINA HAS BEEN A PARIAH IN THE WORLD ECONOMY SINCE THE COMMUNISTS CAME TO POWER 50 YEARS AGO. NOW SEEKING TO GAIN FULL STATUS IN THE WORLD TRADE ORDER IT MUST WIN UNILATERAL ACCEPTANCE FROM EACH OF THE W-T-O MEMBER NATIONS. THE TASK FOR THE WORLD'S MOST POPULOUS NATION WOULD BE A LOT EASIER IF TRADE WERE "NORMALIZED" WITH THE WORLD'S LARGEST ECONOMY. AND THAT IS THE ISSUE THAT NOW CONFRONTS CONGRESS.

A FEW WEEKS AGO, RALLIES IN THE NATION'S CAPITOL KICKED OFF A PUSH BY LABOR TO DEFEAT LEGISLATION THAT WOULD GRANT CHINA PERMANENT NORMAL TRADE RELATIONS, OR P-N-T-R, STATUS. LABOR LEADERS CHARACTERIZE CHINA AS A COUNTRY THAT RENEGES ON ITS TRADE PROMISES, USES CHILD AND PRISON LABOR TO PRODUCE GOODS, AND REGULARLY VIOLATES HUMAN RIGHTS.

THIS WEEK, REPRESENTATIVES FROM THE AGRICULTURE COMMUNITY WERE OUT IN FORCE TO SUPPORT THE TRADE AGREEMENT WITH CHINA.

Rep. Larry Combest, (R) Texas: This is something that is critical to agriculture and I would venture to say this is one of the most significant votes that we will cast, not only in the past, but in the future and if we let this one slip by I think we have done irreparable damage to agriculture."

AT STAKE FOR AGRICULTURE IS A MARKET THAT COMPRISES 20 PERCENT OF THE WORLD'S POPULATION. UNDER THE AGREEMENT SIGNED LAST NOVEMBER, CHINA WOULD REDUCE OR ELIMINATE IT'S IMPORT TARIFF QUOTAS ON AMERICAN AGRICULTURAL GOODS AND OTHER PRODUCTS. SUPPORTERS OF THE TRADE AGREEMENT CLAIM THE U-S GIVES UP NO TRADE CONCESSIONS WHILE CHINA BASICALLY OPENS ITS DOORS TO AMERICAN GOODS. IN RETURN, THE U-S MUST GRANT P-N-T-R STATUS TO CHINA, AN ACTION THAT WOULD VIRTUALLY ASSURE CHINA'S MEMBERSHIP IN THE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION. SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE DAN GLICKMAN CLAIMS THE DEAL WILL BE WORTH TWO BILLION DOLLARS IN AGRICULTURE SALES OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS.

Dan Glickman, Secretary of Agriculture: "What do we do? The status quo doesn't give us any leverage. None. Zero. At least in the new operation we have the ability to enforce the rules of the WTO and our bilateral agreements that we've negotiated with, so anything is better than the current situation."

GLICKMAN AND OTHER PROPONENTS ARGUE THE GROWING INCOME OF CHINESE CONSUMERS WILL LEAD TO EXPANDED MARKET OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE U-S… MOST NOTABLY IN HIGH-END GOODS. SEEING CHINA AS A VIRTUALLY UNTAPPED MARKET FOR TECHNOLOGY AND SERVICES, THE HIGH-TECH AND BUSINESS SECTORS ARE JOINING AGRICULTURE IN THE PUSH TO PASS P-N-T-R LEGISLATION.

WITH SUPPORT FROM THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION AND THE SENATE, THE ONLY HURDLE TO THE TRADE AGREEMENT IS A HOUSE VOTE, WHICH IS ANTICIPATED, IN THE NEXT TWO WEEKS.

PERHAPS A PREVIEW OF THINGS TO COME ... THE INTERNATIONAL TRADE COMMISSION RULED THIS WEEK THAT APPLE JUICE CONCENTRATE IMPORTS FROM CHINA ARE HURTING U.S. PRODUCERS, ECONOMICALLY. THE RULING PAVES THE WAY FOR THE COMMERCE DEPARTMENT TO IMPOSE DUTIES OF NEARLY 52 PERCENT, RETROACTIVE TO LAST NOVEMBER, ON MOST APPLE CONCENTRATE IMPORTED FROM CHINA. THE COMMERCE DEPARTMENT CONCLUDED LAST MONTH THAT CHINA WAS DUMPING CONCENTRATE ONTO THE U.S. MARKET AT PRICES

52 PERCENT BELOW U.S. PRODUCTION COST

Tags: agriculture China Congress news politics trade