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House Passes China Trade Bill

Dateline: 05/24/00

"This will be the most important vote we cast in our Congressional careers." --

Rep. Bill Archer (R-TX) opening the final day of debate on the China Trade Bill.

The U.S. House of Representatives today by a vote of 237 - 197, has approved H.R. 4444 -- a bill authorizing the extension by the United States of permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status to the People's Republic of China.

The granting of PNTR by the United States would clear the way for China's entry into the World Trade Organization and enable free trade with American businesses and industries. Goods from China could be granted the same lower tariff rates in U.S. markets as currently extended to other nations. China has gotten many of these trade advantages for several years, but they have been granted subject to annual review.

A rare event took place on the floor of the House during the last two days of debate -- some minds were actually changed.

Opening today's final debate on free trade with China, Rep. Bill Archer of Texas told his fellow House Members, "This will be the most important vote we cast in our Congressional careers."

The debate did not follow party lines as both Republicans and Democrats spoke for and against the bill.

Representatives speaking in opposition to granting China PNTR focused on:

  • Potential loss of America jobs to a low-wage workforce in China
  • Possible increase of American trade deficit
  • Possible blockade or invasion of Taiwan by the People's Republic of China
  • Continued failure of the Chinese government to enact meaningful human rights reforms
  • Possible security threats to the U.S. posed by China

Representatives speaking in favor of granting China PNTR focused on:

  • Continued stimulation of American economy from expanding markets in China
  • Potential expanded market for the American agricultural products
  • Potential for improve working conditions and pay for Chinese workers
  • Opening Western-style economy in China could force human rights reform in China

The bill as written includes provisions to:

  • establish a human-rights commission to monitor human rights and trade conduct in China;
  • protect U.S. industries against sudden "surges" in the importation of Chinese products; and
  • expand monetary support for Radio Free Asia and the Voice of America.

Yesterday, the House approved by a vote of 404-8, and amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2001 bill offered by Rep. James Traficant (D-OH), requiring the CIA to inform Congress of any security dangers to the U.S. that might come from extending PNTR status to the People's Republic of China.

Who's in support of free trade with China?
Free trade with China is supported by the Clinton Administration, corporate America and agricultural interests. They feel free trade will open up a huge new market for American goods, result in improved conditions for Chinese workers and encourage the Beijing government to enact human rights reform.

Who's opposed to free trade with China?
In opposition are organized labor along with human-rights and religious groups. Opponents fear cheap labor in China will encourage U.S. manufacturers to move factories to China while reward the totalitarian Beijing government, and possibly lead to the invasion or embargo of Taiwan by China.

Free trade with China is not yet a done-deal. The bill must now be debated and voted on by the Senate which will not consider the bill until after its Memorial Day break.

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Free trade with China -- good or bad?
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