May 17,2000

Roth Urges Members to Extend PNTR to China

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Finance Committee met today to mark up legislation extending Permanent Normal Trade Relations to China. Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE) delivered the following opening statement:

"The legislation before us represents, in my view, not only the single most important bill the Committee will take up in this Congress, but a defining moment in our relationship with China," Roth stated. "It is certainly one of the most important pieces of legislation that we have faced in the past decade.

"The Committee's action on permanently normalizing our trade relations with China will, first and foremost, measure our commitment to breaking down barriers to American exports for the benefit of American farmers, industry, and workers. But, the Committee's action will, at the same time, definitively shape the role the United States will play in the process of economic and political transformation under way in China today.

"In terms of our commitment to breaking down barriers to American goods and services, let me underscore once again what the bill will not do. This legislation will not determine whether China will enter the World Trade Organization. China will enter the WTO regardless of whether the Congress passes this bill. What this bill will decide is whether American firms will have equal access to China's market when China joins the WTO.

"China's accession to the WTO has been the subject of intense negotiations for the past 13 years. The bilateral market access package the United States Trade Representative reached this past November represents a remarkable achievement.

"From the point of view of every sector of the United States economy, and from the perspective of any U.S. enterprise, no matter how big or how small, the agreement holds the promise of new markets and future sales. What that ultimately means is expanded economic opportunity, more jobs, and higher wages for American workers in the export sector of our economy.

"The simple question before us is this -- are we willing to take the single step necessary to ensure that American farmers, firms, and workers will be able to pursue those opportunities on equal terms with their counterparts around the world, or will we choose, instead, to hobble their efforts and cede the Chinese market and the fruits of the agreement reached this past November to their competitors?

"I think the answer is clear. We should support our farmers, our firms, and our workers by giving them a fair chance to compete in China and that means a vote in favor of the bill before us.

"While my support for the legislation before us is based on what it does for Americans, particularly the citizens of my state of Delaware, the opportunity to influence our relationship with China in a positive way reinforces my choice. Through the hours of hearings we have held before the Finance Committee, I have returned to the same thought. To the extent we are able, we should offer the Chinese people the opportunity to shape their own destiny. The single most important step we can take here in the Finance Committee toward that end is to cast our votes in favor of greater freedom in China.

"That is what China's participation in the WTO, and our vote on permanent normal trade relations, ultimately means for the Chinese. The opponents of reform in China recognize the dangers posed by economic freedom of the sort the Chinese people will enjoy as a result of China's entry into the WTO.

"That is why the opponents of reform fear the presence of American firms in China that would result from the WTO agreement and why they hope that Congress ultimately rejects PNTR. Indeed, if Congress were to reject PNTR, we would condemn the Chinese people to continue to labor for the state-owned firms that critics of this legislation have claimed deny their basic human rights.

"America stands at the threshold with China, just as assuredly as it did over a quarter-century ago. Until now, the door at this threshold has remained closed -- closed to American products and closed to American ideas. It is up this Committee and, ultimately, to this Congress to decide if that door will be opened. The legislation before today represents the key to that door. If we throw away the key to prosperity for both nations, we are not only locking American firms, farmers, and workers out, we are locking the Chinese people in. That is something we must not do.

"I hope that the Committee's action today will be unequivocal. I urge my colleagues to support passage of the legislation before us without amendment."