COMMITTEE LOOKS AT CHINA'S POTENTIAL WTO ACCESSION
Roth: "It is in our national interest for China to become a fully participating member of the WTO."
WASHINGTON -- The Senate Finance Committee today held an oversight hearing on the status of a possible China/WTO agreement. Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE) delivered the following opening statement:
"China is the 10th largest trading nation in the world. Despite a recent slow down in its economic growth, it remains among the fastest growing markets in the world. Indeed, within the next decade, China may pass Japan as the world's second largest economy after the United States. It represents a fifth of humanity.
"While there are a number of serious challenges that beset our bilateral relationship with China, I want to be absolutely clear on one very important point: It is in our national interest for China to become a fully-participating member of the World Trade Organization. In fact, until it is, the term World Trade Organization is a misnomer.
"That is not to say that we should concede WTO membership to the Chinese at any price. I have advocated a hard-nosed approach to the negotiations to ensure that, by its own terms, any agreement that allowed China into the WTO met the objectives we outlined at the outset of the talks and served our national economic interest.
"This past week, we took a significant step forward toward that goal. The United States Trade Representative obtained significant market access commitments from the Chinese and came close to cinching a deal on the terms of a bilateral market access package that represents one step in China's accession to the WTO. I want to applaud the team at USTR from Ambassador Barshefsky on down for their extraordinary work thus far in the negotiations.
"China made commitments to significantly lower its market barriers across most business sectors to levels, I'm told, that rival the access that we have to many of our industrialized trading partners. The Chinese have also agreed to adopt WTO rules on a variety of fronts, including an immediate end to non-scientific bans on imports of wheat, citrus, and meats, including poultry.
"China has also agreed to address the significant problems with transparency and the rule of law in that country as a part of its protocol of accession. I'm told that the Chinese have agreed to publish all regulations and laws, to allow for judicial review of agency decisions and to establish an office to provide information to businesses on the laws they must follow.
"While these commitments represent an important milestone, it must be understood that the work is not complete. There are still critical issues to be resolved before a bilateral market access agreement can be reached. And that agreement will only be the first of series of steps for China to accede.
"This hearing continues the Finance Committee's ongoing oversight and review of the possible agreement and China's potential WTO accession. This Committee will have to examine any agreement in exhaustive detail to ensure that China has made the commitments necessary -- and will abide by those commitments -- to ensure that our exporters have the same access to China's markets that China has to ours. The Finance Committee will also have to determine if an agreement meets the specific needs of U.S. manufacturers, farmers, service providers and workers.
"This hearing presents an opportunity to examine the agreement as a trade agreement. There will be other opportunities to address the other issues that affect our bilateral relationship with the Chinese.
"The question before us, however, is whether, standing alone, an agreement on accession is in the United States interest. My goal today is simply to learn more about the package Ambassador Barshefsky has negotiated.
"I want to ensure that the Committee has the opportunity to assess the prospective agreement on its own merits as a trade agreement alone in order to determine whether the agreement is in our national economic interest. We need to understand who benefits from the agreement and who, if anyone, in the United States would be hurt. We also need to know how the agreement would compare in market access terms to agreements reached with other WTO trading partners, both the developed and developing."
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