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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 11, 2000


Today I met with my national security team about the critical stakes in China's WTO accession and our decision regarding Permanent Normal Trade Relations.

The economic reasons for PNTR are clear cut. Our markets already are open to China; the agreement we reached to bring China into the WTO doesn't require that we open them further in any way. What it does is to open China's markets to our workers, our farmers, our businesses. That means more jobs, growth, and exports for Americans. China will join the WTO regardless of what we decide to do. The decision before Congress is whether the United States will receive the same trade benefits from China as will our trade competitors.

The national security implications are even more far-reaching. Bringing China into the WTO will entwine China in the global economy, increasing its interdependence with the rest of the world. It will bring the information revolution -- with the knowledge and freedom of thought that entails -- to millions of people in China in ways its government cannot possibly control. It will accelerate the dismantling of China's state-owned enterprises -- a process that is getting government out of people's lives and sparking social and political change all over China. It will strengthen China's reforms and the reformers behind them.

That is reason enough to vote for PNTR. But I am also concerned about what a vote against PNTR would do. It would have extremely harmful consequences for our national security. Because the economic case for PNTR is so strong, the Chinese will see a rejection as a strategic decision by the United States to turn from cooperation to confrontation, to deal with China as an adversary. That would undercut the reform-minded leaders who signed this agreement with us, and strengthen the hand of hard liners who believe cooperating with the United States is a mistake. Those are the same forces most threatened by our alliances with Japan and Korea, the same forces that want the Chinese military to sell dangerous technologies, and the same forces that would pursue confrontation with Taiwan rather than dialogue.

It's no surprise that Taiwan's President-elect Chen strongly supports China's membership in the WTO, and wants us to grant PNTR. He understands the importance of the stability that will come from good US-China relations and China's membership in the WTO. If both Beijing and Taiwan are in the WTO, it will increase their interdependence and therefore the cost to Beijing of confrontation. If China is shut out, tensions in the Taiwan Strait will likely rise. Our ability to ease them will diminish.

We will spare no effort in the coming days and weeks to make sure that the Congress and the American people understand what the stakes are. And I am confident that when the debate is over and the votes are cast, the Congress will do what is right -- both for our prosperity and our security.