Permanent Normal Trade Status

May 8, 2000

Congress is about to grant permanent normal trade relations to China. Now that's quite a mouthful, but basically what Congress may do is give China what used to be called Most Favored Nation status on a permanent basis. In the past the status was reviewed on an annual basis. Congress is about to grant it permanently.

The argument from the Clinton administration basically breaks down to this: what is there to lose? They argue that human rights abuses can't get any worse in China. And that certainly seems to be the case. Just recently Chinese police forcibly arrested nearly 100 followers of Falun Gong, a spiritual meditation-and-exercise movement.

But opponents argue that the annual review gives Congress at least some leverage on the horrible human rights record of China. By granting permanent status, that small amount of leverage the U.S. currently enjoys would vanish.

Last week the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a report which calls for America to wait before giving our best trade policies to China permanently. The commissioners support free trade but believe that Congress should only grant permanent normal trade relations "only after China makes substantial improvement in respect for religious freedom."

Opponents of granting permanent trade status point out that human rights abuses have grown worse ever since the Clinton administration divorced the issue from trade. And the U.S. sponsored a United Nations resolution condemning China for the worst repression since Tiananmen Square. Unfortunately that resolution was tabled by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

The argument that it can't get any worse is about the only argument on the table these days. Does anyone believe that removing the annual review will improve human rights in China? This seems like the worst time to be granting permanent normal trade relations with China.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.