- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2000

This week, senators will decide if the United States should establish permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with China. Although there are good arguments supporting both sides of this issue, there is only one correct course of action. By voting in favor of PNTR, lawmakers will make a long-term investment in U.S. economic growth, the empowerment of the Chinese people and the commercial engagement of a crucial world player.
Clearly lawmakers are keenly aware of the significance of this vote and tensions have been high. Granted, China already enjoys a de facto PNTR, since Congress has always granted the Asian country access to U.S. markets in its yearly review of its human rights record. But this year, the legislation is particularly important, since passage of the trade bill would pave the way for Beijing's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). Already Beijing has granted the United States a series of trade concessions, which America would have to forfeit if it fails to approve PNTR.
Meanwhile, U.S. trade competitors, such as the Japan and the European Union (E.U.), have concluded their bilateral trade agreements with Beijing. The deal the E.U. reached with China in May is already advancing reform. This year, the E.U. will launch an initiative to restructure Chinas financial service sector.
Trade with China isn't a benefit to U.S. corporations and the Chinese regime alone. Eventually, it will help enrich and empower the Chinese people. And the United States can leverage a burgeoning commercial relationship with China to help support wide-ranging reform. For example, included in PNTR legislation is the creation of a new bilateral human rights commission. As Mike Jendrzejczyk, from Human Rights Watch, suggested in a Boston Globe column Wednesday, Congress should hold a yearly debate on this commission's report, and should vote on specific policy recommendations based on its findings. In addition, the United States should fund reform projects, such as seminars on how to apply international legal and labor norms to China and should sponsor the training and exchanges of lawyers and judges.
Trade is also the best vehicle for establishing warmer relations with China. For all its eagerness to join the international trading community, Beijing continues to view U.S. economic and military power with wariness, and even suspicion. If China wins a stake in U.S. prosperity, the relationship can only improve.
It remains vital, however, that the interests of corporate America don't hijack U.S. policy towards China. At any given time, Washington must be prepared to subordinate commercial interests to safeguard national security concerns. The United States must continue to pressure Beijing to improve its disappointing human rights record and provide Taiwan with rhetorical and, if need be, military defense. Washington must also make unmistakably clear that China and Taiwan join the WTO as separate entities, as has been agreed in previous negotiations.
But trading with China and protecting America's national security aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, critics often cite human rights, economic and security concerns as reasons to reject PNTR. But these are the very reasons the Senate should normalize trade relations with China.

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