Roth Statement on Hutchinson China/WTO Amendment
WASHINGTON -- The following is the statement of Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. regarding an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations bill (S. 544) offered by Senator Tim Hutchinson (D-AR). The amendment was tabled by a vote of 69-30.
"Mr. President, I rise to oppose the amendment offered by my distinguished colleague from Arkansas, Senator Hutchinson. Like him, I am deeply concerned about the issues he is attempting to address with this legislation -- human rights violations and security concerns involving China, particularly the theft of scientific information from Los Alamos. I am concerned about China's military build-up, its continuing threats of force against Taiwan, and what is taking place in Tibet. I believe that appropriately addressing these issues is vitally important and I look forward to working with Senator Hutchinson and others to do so.
"However, as Chairman of the Finance Committee, I must oppose both the method and timing of this approach. It not only fails to allow the Senate to raise and address the sensitive issue of trade relations with China in the appropriate forum of the Finance Committee -- a forum where the merits of such an amendment can be carefully studied and weighed against the best interests of our nation -- but this approach also has tremendous foreign policy implications that need careful scrutiny.
"Let me address the first concern. Trade negotiations and trade agreements go to the core of the Finance Committee's jurisdiction over trade matters. As the Chairman, I am responsible, with the ranking minority member, not only for the Committee's substantive role in the trade policy process, I am also the guardian of its prerogatives.
"The Committee was the first formed in the United States Congress when tariffs were the central source of revenue to a still new republic. Trade and tariff policy remain central to the Committee's role in the legislative process.
"For example, the Finance Committee reported out a trade bill the first day of the 106th Congress. In addition, at my instigation, the Committee has launched a comprehensive review of America's trade policy, including the role that China's accession to the WTO would play in our trade policy.
"Unfortunately, there has been no attempt to offer this legislation and lay it before the Finance Committee for its review. Nor has there been any attempt by its supporters to engage with the Committee in the process of our review of America's trade policy.
"Instead, this amendment seems to be driven by the emotions of the moment toward a form of legislative anarchy. It has gone around the Finance Committee in a way that provides no time for the deliberations for which the Senate is designed. It attempts to move legislation of monumental importance to our trade and foreign policies on the back of a supplemental appropriations measure principally designed to help impoverished countries in Central America and to support the constructive role Jordan has played in the Middle East peace process.
"Beyond these procedural concerns, I am deeply concerned about the underlying intent of this amendment. Is this bill being raised at this time out of a concern that our trade negotiators will not strike a deal that serves our commercial interests in China?
"Or is this bill being offered simply to hinder those negotiations in response to recent allegations of spying or the theft of secrets from Los Alamos?
"I ask those questions because there seems to be a rush to pass this measure in advance of the visit of Zhu Rongji to the United States. It rests on the assumption that the United States will reach an agreement on WTO accession and that, by virtue of that deal, China will enter the WTO the day after Zhu leaves.
"That is simply wrong. Everything we hear of the negotiations is that it will be difficult even to reach an agreement on U.S. access to China's market. I want to empha to my colleagues that a deal on market access, even if it is reached in time for the summit, is only one step along the road to China's accession to the WTO. The more difficult negotiations on when and how China will agree to be bound by the basic rules of the WTO remain. No protocol of accession will be approved by the United States, much less the WTO as a whole, until those negotiations are complete.
"In other words, there is no reason to act precipitously on this measure. There is no reason to subvert the normal legislative processes to secure passage of this amendment at this time. Indeed, the Finance Committee is actively at work on trade matters as part of the trade policy review I have initiated. That is the appropriate venue for the initial discussion of this measure and any necessary refinements to my colleague's approach.
"China has been the subject of intense concern to the Finance Committee. We have made it clear at every stage that constructive trade relations with China must offer concrete assurances of U.S. market access consistent with our national interest. We have also made it clear that there must be no rush to judgment or attempt to offer a politically-motivated deal to the Chinese simply because the White House wants a foreign policy "deliverable" to cap the upcoming summit meeting.
"My impression from our discussion with Ambassador Barshefsky is that, while there has been considerable progress in recent days, there is still a considerable distance to go even before the United States could agree to a package on market access, much less the more difficult process of negotiating the actual protocols of accession.
"Beyond these reasons, Mr. President, I oppose Senator Hutchinson's amendment on China's accession to the World Trade Organization because of the damaging precedent it would set for all future WTO accessions. It would dramatically undercut the United States' consistent position -- under both Republican and Democrat presidents -- that accession to the WTO and its predecessor organization, the GATT, is not a political decision, but is one we as Americans base simply on another country's willingness to be bound by the same rules that govern our other trading partners in the world trading system. It is quintessentially a commercial agreement that should be judged on its merits as such.
"I also oppose this amendment as a matter of Senate procedure. I have always objected to attempts to legislate on appropriations measures. Offering substantive amendments to appropriations bills subverts the normal process of the Senate by which legislation is introduced, moved through the committee of jurisdiction with expertise on the matter, and moved to the floor.
"Attempts to modify substantive law on the back of appropriations bills often results in the delay of the appropriations themselves. Whether my colleagues support the current supplemental or not, I think we would all agree that the bill deserves to rise or fall on its own merits, not as a result of extraneous and unrelated matters.
"For all these reasons, I urge my colleagues to vote against Senator Hutchinson's amendment."
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