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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 18, 2000
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

The Rose Garden

10:38 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. It's always good to have Chairman Greenspan back at the White House, and I'm especially pleased that he has come today to join me in voicing his support for permanent normal trade relations with China. We all know that when Chairman Greenspan talks, the world listens. I just hope that Congress is listening today.

Many members remain undecided, and we are doing everything we possibly can to round up each and every potential vote. I'm encouraged by the vote in the committees in both Houses, including both Republican and Democratic members, to overwhelmingly approve extending permanent normal trade relations with China. This legislation now goes before the full Congress.

All the former Presidents support it, along with former Secretaries of State, Defense, Trade, Transportation, National Security Advisors, Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, religious leaders, many of the courageous people in China fighting for human rights and the rule of law.

Momentum is building, but we've still got a challenging fight. I thank Chairman Greenspan for coming here today, and I'd like for him to say whatever is on his mind about this issue.

Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN GREENSPAN: Thank you very much, Mr. President. The outcome of the debate on permanent normal trade relations with China will have profound implications for the free world's trading system and the long-term growth potential of the American economy.

Jim Leach, the Chairman of the House Banking Committee, a couple of weeks ago requested that I share with his committee my perspective on PNTR for China. Let me read you my response.

"The addition of the Chinese economy to the global marketplace will result in a more efficient worldwide allocation of resources, and will raise standards of living in China and its trading partners. Should China accept the challenge of international competition embodied in World Trade Organization membership. It will doubtless promote internal economic development, encourage the adoption of modern technologies, and contribute to lifting its citizens out of poverty.

History has demonstrated that implicit in any removal of power from central planners and broadening of market mechanisms, as would occur under WTO, is a more general spread of rights to individuals. Such a development will be a far stronger vehicle to foster other individual rights than other alternative of which I am aware.

Further development of China's trading relationships with the United States and other industrial countries will work to strengthen the rule of law within China and to firm its commitment to economic reform. China's citizens will come to have greater choice about their lifestyles and employment and to enjoy enhanced access to communication and information from around the globe.

As China's citizens experience economic gains, so will the American firms that trade in their expanding markets. China's progress towards prosperity and accession into the WTO will create new opportunities for American businesses and farmers. China, with a population of 1.2 billion people, has an economy that when measured -- taking into account the purchasing power of alternative currencies -- is larger than that of Japan, and may be approaching half the size of the American economy.

China's trade now accounts for three percent of world trade, and should expand further in response to WTO participation. Our markets are already generally open to China, and that will not be altered by PNTR. Passage of PNTR, however, will facilitate a further opening of China's markets to U.S. producers. Accordingly, I believe extending PNTR to China, and full participation by China in the WTO, is in the interests of the United States.

Thank you, Mr. President, for having me here today to express my views on so vital an issue affecting our nation's future.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I would just like to say that, first, I believe that Chairman Greenspan has established a pretty good record for knowing what is in America's economic interest. He has once again reiterated, clearly and unambiguously, that this agreement exchanges membership rights for China in the WTO for economic opportunities for America in China -- for American businesses and American workers -- without the tariffs and technology transfer requirements, and production in China requirements, and other requirements which have limited our ability to benefit from their market for too long. So, economically, the case is clear and compelling.

But I would also like to emphasize here the national security aspects of this, and the human and political rights aspects. You've heard Chairman Greenspan address the human and political rights aspects, and make the point that increasing access to a market economy increases personal freedom in other ways. I will just cite one example, which is that China has gone from 2 million to 9 million to 20 million Internet users over the last three years. And it was exploding again this year; we do not know where it will be next year. But this is a profoundly significant thing.

That's why Martin Lee came all the way from Hong Kong. That's why people who have been, themselves, oppressed in China have pleaded with us to support this -- because they know getting into a rules-based system and promoting economic competition will both enhance the march of liberty and law, and human rights.

The other point I would like to make is, there is a serious national security issue here. We do not know what China will choose to do in the future, and China will make that decision for itself. But we know that one decision will dramatically increase the chances of a constructive relationship with China in a stable Asia, and the other will dramatically increase the chances of a less happy outcome. That's why Japan and North Korea, Thailand and the Philippines, our democratic allies in Northeast Asia, are for this.

If you want to reduce tensions along the Taiwan Strait, if you want a more stable Asia, if you want to maximize the chances of avoiding proliferation of dangerous weapons and a new arms race, a "yes" is the right vote.

Last point: As has been well-documented by those of you in our press, it is indeed ironic that the only people in China who want this vote to fail are the more reactionary elements of the military, economic and political structure, who do not want to give up control, and may need America as a continuing adversary to maintain that control and that capacity to repress liberty and human rights.

I believe the issue is profound and clear. And I am grateful for what Chairman Greenspan has said today.

Thank you very much.

END 10:47 A.M. EDT