(March 9, 2000) Bill Clinton gave a speech at Johns Hopkins University in which
he praised the trade agreement negotiated with China last year, advocated
granting China permanent normal trade relations status, and argued that the
Internet will spread liberty in China.
Clinton Says Trade Deal and Internet Will Reform China
|Clinton's Speech, 3/8/00.|
|Clinton's Proposed Legislation, 3/8/00.|
President Bill Clinton spoke at the Paul H. Nitze School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University on Wednesday, March 8. He argued that the U.S. will benefit economically from greater access to Chinese markets, and that China will become a more open society.
"In the new century, liberty will spread by cell phone and cable modem," said Clinton. "We know how much the Internet has changed America, and we are already an open society. Imagine how much it could change China."
"In the knowledge economy, economic innovation and political empowerment, whether anyone likes it or not, will inevitably go hand in hand." Clinton continued that "bringing China into the WTO doesn't guarantee that it will choose political reform. But accelerating the progress, the process of economic change, will force China to confront that choice sooner, and it will make the imperative for the right choice stronger."
|Related Story: U.S. and China Reach Trade Agreement, 11/16/00.|
The U.S. negotiated an agreement with China on that country's accession to the World Trade Organization in Beijing last year. However, in order to get the benefits of that agreement, the U.S. must also grant China the same permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status that it grants to other WTO members.
Clinton also delivered proposed legislation to the Congress to extend PNTR status to China.
One of the goals of the U.S. has been to open China's telecommunications and Internet services markets to competition.
from Clinton's Speech
|In the new century, liberty will spread by cell phone and cable modem.
In the past year, the number of Internet addresses in China has more than
quadrupled from 2 million to 9 million. This year, the number is expected
to grow to over 20 million. When China joins the WTO, by 2005, it will
eliminate tariffs on information technology products, making the tools of
communication even cheaper, better, and more widely available.
We know how much the Internet has changed America, and we are already an open society. Imagine how much it could change China.
Now, there's no question China has been trying to crack down on the Internet -- good luck. That's sort of like trying to nail Jello to the wall. But I would argue to you that their effort to do that just proves how real these changes are and how much they threaten the status quo. It's not an argument for slowing down the effort to bring China into the world, it's an argument for accelerating that effort. In the knowledge economy, economic innovation and political empowerment, whether anyone likes it or not, will inevitably go hand in hand.
Now, of course, bringing China into the WTO doesn't guarantee that it will choose political reform. But accelerating the progress, the process of economic change, will force China to confront that choice sooner, and it will make the imperative for the right choice stronger. And, again, I ask: If China is willing to take this risk -- and these leaders are very intelligent people, they know exactly what they're doing -- if they're willing to take this risk, how can we turn our backs on the chance to take them up on it?
"Last fall," said Clinton, "the United States signed the agreement to bring China into the WTO, on terms that will open its market to American products and investment. When China concludes similar agreements with other countries, it will join the WTO. But, as Lee said, for us to benefit from that we must first grant it permanent normal trading status -- the same arrangement we have given other countries in the WTO."
"Before coming here today, I submitted legislation to Congress to do that, and I again publicly urge Congress to approve it as soon as possible."
"The WTO agreement will move China in the right direction," said Clinton. "It will advance the goals America has worked for in China for the past three decades. And, of course, it will advance our own economic interests."
"If Congress passes PNTR, we reap these rewards. If Congress rejects it, our competitors reap these rewards. Again, we must understand the consequences of saying no. If we don't sell our products to China, someone else will step into the breach," said Clinton.
Clinton made light of China's efforts to regulate the Internet. "Now, there's no question China has been trying to crack down on the Internet -- good luck."
"That's sort of like trying to nail Jello to the wall."
Other Clinton administration officials, including U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, and National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, have been speaking out frequently in support of the China trade deal.
Bill Clinton delivered this major address and accompanying legislation the day after Al Gore secured the Democratic Presidential nomination. This is not inconsistent with the hypothesis that he held off making the address until it could not serve as a dividing issue in the Democratic presidential primaries.
The AFL-CIO and many Congressional Democrats are opposed to the deal.
"A lot of member of Congress may still believe that this is a vote to allow China into the World Trade Organization," said Michael Baroody of the National Association of Manufacturers in a press release.. "The reality is that China will join the WTO no matter what we do. The question is whether we choose to sit out the race to enter the world’s largest consumer market."