Iowa Public Television

 

China trade deal faces opposition from organized labor

posted on April 14, 2000


WITH FARM INCOME PROJECTED TO DROP ANOTHER 20 PERCENT THIS YEAR, OFFICIAL WASHINGTON DIDN'T STOP WITH THE MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR AID PACKAGE FOR FARMERS. THE USDA SAYS IT WILL OFFER SIGNING BONUSES AND OTHER INCENTIVES TOTALING $350-MILLION TO ENCOURAGE ENROLLMENT IN STRIP LAND CONSERVATION. THE AGENCY SAYS IT ALSO WILL OFFER FARMERS LOW-INTEREST GOVERNMENT FINANCING TO BUILD GRAIN STORAGE FACILITIES ON THEIR PROPERTY.

TO OTHERS, THE ANSWER TO SUCH FINANCIAL STRESS IS INCREASED FARM EXPORTS. BUT ACCESS TO OVERSEAS MARKETS IS TRICKY. AND POLITICAL PRESSURE HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO BEAR AT HOME. THIS WEEK, THOUSANDS OF UNION ACTIVISTS RALLIED IN WASHINGTON TO OPPOSE PERMANENT NORMAL TRADE RELATIONS WITH CHINA.

THE PERMANENT STATUS FOR BEIJING WOULD ELIMINATE THE NEED FOR AN ANNUAL CONGRESSIONAL VOTE ON CHINA'S TRADE STATUS. THE RALLY WAS THE BEGINNING OF A CAMPAIGN BY UNION ACTIVISTS TO SWAY THE VOTES OF UNDECIDED MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE. ACTIVISTS CLAIM THE TREATY WILL ERODE THE RIGHTS OF CHINESE WORKERS AND CAUSE JOB LOSS IN THE U-S.

JOHN SWEENEY, PRESIDENT AFL-CIO: "Until there are no more broken treaties, no more dissidents in prison, no more environmental destruction, and no more torture and no more executions there will be no blank check for China."

CEMENTING NORMAL TRADE WITH CHINA IS THE U-S CONCESSION IN AN AGREEMENT THAT SWINGS WIDE THE FLOODGATE FOR AMERICAN GOODS INTO ASIA'S BIGGEST MARKET. THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION HAS TOUTED THE DEAL AS A BOON FOR U-S FARM GOODS AND TECHNOLOGY.

CHARLENE BARCHEFSKY, U-S TRADE REPRESENTATIVE: "China has long maintained direct import bans on imports of citrus, and meat from the United States and wheat from the Pacific Northwest. With the bilateral agreement we negotiated with China, China has lifted those bans..."

BY SOME ESTIMATES THE TRADE AGREEMENT COULD RESULT IN AN EXTRA TWO BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR BY 2005 FOR U-S WHEAT, CITRUS, AND LIVESTOCK FARMERS. A SMALL SHIPMENT OF WHEAT AND ORANGES TO CHINA LAST MONTH WAS SEEN BY SOME AS A GOODWILL GESTURE SHOWING CHINA WILL KEEP ITS END OF THE BARGAIN.

THE HOUSE VOTES ON THE MEASURE LATE NEXT MONTH.

Tags: agriculture China jobs news trade unions