THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Dear Speaker Hastert (note: Letter being sent to all
members of Congress):
The House of Representatives faces a choice this week that will affect our economy and security for generations to come. If Congress votes to normalize trade with China, it will open tremendous opportunities for American workers, farmers, and businesses, and improve prospects for peace, stability, and prosperity in Asia and around the world.
America begins this new century on a strong footing. We enjoy unprecedented prosperity -- the longest expansion in history and more than 21 million new jobs. We achieved that through a strategy of fiscal discipline, investing in our people, and expanding trade. We have created opportunities at home by opening markets abroad.
China-- with more than a billion people-- is home to the largest potential market in the world. To enter the WTO, China has agreed to open that market to everything from American wheat to cars to computers. Chinese tariffs will fall by half or more in the next five years. If Congress makes the right decision, our companies will be able to sell and distribute products in China made by American workers on American soil, without being forced to relocate manufacturing to China, or to sell through the Chinese government, or to transfer valuable technology. We will be able to export products without exporting jobs.
What trade concessions do we give China in return? The answer is none. When it comes to market opening, this is a one-way agreement. We will not have to lower our tariffs at all. The only thing we will have to do is provide China the same terms of trade that we provide over 130 other countries in the WTO -- normal trade relations on a permanent basis.
As you deliberate this serious question, I urge you to recognize that even if Congress votes against PNTR, China will still join the WTO. China has just overcome its largest remaining bilateral hurdle to accession: an agreement with the European Union. This puts China on the verge of finalizing its WTO accession. A vote against PNTR would not be a vote for the status quo. It would be a vote to deny American workers, farmers, and businesses the benefits of access to China's markets that our competitors in Europe and Japan will enjoy.
But this decision is about much more than our economy. It's about our values, our security, and the kind of world we want to build.
China is still a one-party state that denies its people universally recognized rights of free speech and religious expression. China still defines its interests in the world in ways that often diverge from our own. But the question before the Congress is not whether we approve of China's policies. The question is what we can do to help improve them. I believe that bringing China into the WTO and normalizing our trading relationship will advance the right kind of change in China.
We must keep in mind that despite the material progress China has made, its economy and society are undergoing enormous strains. China's government is seeking to join the WTO because it believes that without competition from the outside, China will not be able to overcome those strains and build a modern, successful economy. It is not consciously or willingly importing our democratic values along with our products. But by reforming its economy and opening it to the world, it is unleashing forces of change that will prove difficult to control.
Foreign competition will undermine China's command and control system, forcing it to dismantle more of the state-owned factories through which the Communist Party dominates its people's lives. WTO rule-based reforms will also take power and authority out of the hands of bureaucrats and give them to the Chinese people. More Chinese workers will find jobs with foreign companies, where they get better pay and conditions, and Chinese companies will be forced to compete. Our high tech companies will bring the information revolution to China. The number of Internet users has already increased tenfold in the last two years. The day will come when the Chinese people can communicate and come together without fear or restraint. We can help speed it by normalizing trade.
By opening its economy, the costs to China of confrontation will rise, and so will the benefits of cooperation. That is why Presidents Ford, Carter and Bush have urged Congress to support this agreement -- along with Chairman Greenspan, former Secretaries of State, Defense, Treasury, and Commerce, and U.S. Trade Representatives, the Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a host of economic and trade specialists in the private sector, including Nobel Laureates. They believe, as I do, that we must be vigilant in protecting our security, but that at this moment in China's internal development, America will have more influence with an outstretched hand than a clenched fist.
Many brave people in China who are fighting for the environment, for labor, for human rights and the rule of law share that conviction, such as human rights activist and legislator Martin Lee in Hong Kong and dissident and political reform advocate Bao Tong in Beijing. They are asking America not to turn our back on this opportunity to promote change. It is China's hard-liners who don't want to open their economy. They are the same ones who oppose working with America; the same ones most ready to deal with Taiwan by force; the same ones clinging to one-party control over the way people work and live.
Trade alone won't bring freedom to China or peace to the world. And if change does come, it will not come quickly. America must keep pressing to protect our security and advance our values, and we will. But if Congress refuses to normalize trade -- after all the concessions that China has made to enter the WTO -- the Chinese people will see it as a vote for confrontation. It will weaken those who work for change and strengthen those who oppose it at any cost. It will diminish our ability to defuse tensions between China and Taiwan and to advance our goals in non-proliferation and arms control. It will alarm our allies in Asia -- all of whom are urging us to normalize trade. And it will invite the world to question our leadership.
This is Congress's choice. We can try to move China in the right direction, and gain the benefits; or we can push China in the wrong direction, and pay the price. If we want prosperity for our people, if we want to stand for freedom, if we want peace and security for our nation and the world, I believe the choice is clear: We must extend permanent normal trading relations for China.
William J. Clinton
The Honorable House of Representatives Washington, D.C. 20515