- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2000

The Clinton administration yesterday announced a massive plan to enforce China's commitments under a landmark trade agreement now before Congress.

The move is an attempt to blunt a main charge of opponents of the deal that the Chinese cannot be trusted to keep their word. It is also an implicit admission that the White House expects serious problems in getting China to comply with the agreement.

"There's no question that there will be difficulty in complying with the commitments that have been made," Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley told reporters after a congressional hearing.

U.S. trade officials have struggled over the past 10 years to obtain Chinese compliance with agreements in specific sectors such as agriculture, intellectual property and information technology. Even the most ardent supporters of the latest agreement acknowledge that its enforcement will require an unprecedented commitment of American resources.

"You won't get perfect enforcement from the beginning, no question," said Nicholas Lardy, a China specialist at the Brookings Institution.

The United States negotiated a broad agreement with China on entry into the World Trade Organization last November. But, as part of the deal, Congress must give China the permanent access to the U.S. market that the vast majority of other trading partners enjoy, a status known as normal trade relations (NTR). The United States currently renews that status on an annual basis.

A vote on permanent NTR for China is scheduled for the week of May 22.

The administration's enforcement plan for the China trade pact, as announced by Mr. Daley, combines oversight of China by a small army of U.S. officials. The measures are designed to buttress the position of reformers in China who want to use the WTO agreement to promote market-oriented change.

Rep. David E. Bonior, the Michigan Democrat who is leading efforts to defeat permanent NTR for China, dismissed the administration initiative as "a desperate gesture to sell this flawed China deal that is floundering here in Congress."

"China has repeatedly violated every trade agreement it has ever signed with the United States," Mr. Bonior told the Associated Press.

Mr. Daley said the plan will go into effect immediately, but that the administration will ask for an additional $22 million in funding for the next fiscal year.

It includes officials headed by a new senior Commerce Department post exclusively for China who will assess U.S. priorities, based both in Washington and China. And, Mr. Daley said, the United States will accelerate the process by which it could take a complaint about China to the WTO.

At the same time, the administration said it would offer extensive technical advice to the Chinese officials who will be in charge of implementing the WTO agreement. U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky pointed out at the hearing that the Chinese government will have to comply with 20 separate agreements, ranging from investment to services to intellectual property.

"There is hardly a part of the Chinese government bureaucracy that is not touched by this agreement," Mr. Lardy said.

Also yesterday, Rep. Sander M. Levin, Michigan Democrat, announced he was close to hammering out a plan that would replace the annual renewal process with a "framework" designed to highlight human rights abuses in China, to guard against unfair trading practices and to get regular reviews in the WTO of Chinese compliance with the pact.

The plan could help persuade wavering House members who are inclined to back permanent NTR for China, but want a forum to air their complaints about China after the annual NTR renewal is abolished.

"I'm more convinced than ever that it could have a major impact" on the vote, Mr. Levin said. "There is a feeling that we need to both engage and confront China."

Up to 30 Democrats have expressed interest in the plan, House aides said, a group that could mean the difference between passage and defeat of the legislation. Mr. Levin also has won the backing of senior Republicans and the White House, whose support is essential in order to tie his plan to the NTR legislation.

Rep. Robert T. Matsui, the California Democrat who is leading the pro-NTR forces in his party, told reporters that at least 55 of the 211 House Democrats have promised to back NTR. By that count, the White House still needs to win over roughly half of the 40 undecided Democrats to pass NTR with Republican support.

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