February 23,2000

Roth Statement at Hearing on U.S.-China Bilateral Trade Agreement on China's Accession to the WTO

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Finance Committee met today to hear testimony on the U.S.-China bilateral agreement that was negotiated as a part of the People's Republic of China's accession to the WTO. Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE) delivered the following opening statement:

"Today's hearing will focus on the bilateral agreement reached this past November between the United States and China on the terms of China's accession to the World Trade Organization," Roth stated. "From what I have seen of the package thus far, the pact would afford U.S. exports unparalleled access to the Chinese market and create significant new commercial opportunities for American firms, farmers, and workers. I am looking forward to learning more about the bilateral deal and about the views of industry and labor on its terms.

"That said, I think it is imperative, in light of the events of the past week, to make two points. One is for our Chinese friends, who I know are following the proceedings here closely. The second is for the Administration.

"With respect to China, I feel obliged to say that WTO accession and the passage of permanent normal trade relations in the Senate is not a foregone conclusion, as some may think. The reckless threat to use force against Taiwan over negotiations on the future of cross-straits relations and the recurring human rights violations will necessarily affect the Senate's consideration of the agreement. My strong preference would be to debate the agreement on its own merits. I am confident that, if the package is debated on its own terms, the Congress will recognize the benefits that the deal will extend to U.S. firms, farmers, and workers and pass permanent normal trade relations legislation.

"My point is that we may not reach that debate if the broader relationship between our countries is in question. The actions of certain Chinese officials in recent days were bound to raise precisely those questions, whether or not that was their intent.

"As for the Administration, two weeks ago I made the point that the President's ambivalence on trade had hampered our ability to make progress on trade for the benefit of our farmers and workers. On China, by contrast, the President has been the strongest possible advocate for a WTO deal. Now, we hear that the Vice President has promised the AFL-CIO that, if a deal is not reached this year, he will rewrite the bilateral agreement in ways that would impose obligations on China that no other WTO member bears and make it wholly unacceptable in their eyes. Those statements raise serious questions about the Administration's commitment to getting this deal done and the legislation passed -- questions that the President himself had labored strenuously to put to rest in his State of the Union address and in his statements since that time on China.

"Our relationship with China and the economic opportunities that the market access package would yield for our farmers and workers are too important to be caught up in raw partisan campaign politics. Legislation normalizing our trade relations with China will pass only with the unwavering commitment by the Administration and a strong, bipartisan effort here in Congress. The Vice President's comments have, at once, called the Administration's support into question and made the process of building bipartisan support significantly more difficult. He has offered wavering members a rationale for delaying a vote until next year. That raises the legitimate question whether the Administration remains committed to moving the legislation this year."