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Senate passes China trade bill

September 19, 2000

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Senate has granted permanent normal trade relations with China, a move that will likely lead to an increased flow of goods and possibly cultural influence from the U.S. to the world's most populace nation according to U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.

The Senate passed H.R. 4444 by an 83-15 vote today. The House passed the bill in May by a vote of 237-197. President Clinton has been an outspoken supporter of the legislation.

After months of consideration, Enzi recently announced his support for the legislation and voted for its passage today. In a statement before the vote today, Enzi outlined some of the benefits of the bill and the reasons that voting against the legislation would not help improve human rights, weapons proliferation and other problems the U.S. must address in its relations with China.

A copy of the statement is below.

Enzi also inserted in the record some opinion pieces written by Reverend Billy Graham, Joe Volk of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, and Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network, Randy Tate, former Executive Direction of the Christian Coalition and thirty-two other religious leaders representing a broad range of religious organizations. The writings lend support to permanent normal trade relations with China and can be obtained by contacting the Enzi press office.

H.R. 4444 Statement of
Michael B. Enzi
September 19, 2000

Mr. President, I rise to speak in favor of the bill to extend permanent normal trade relations to China. I have taken a great deal of time to study both the positive and negative aspects of granting PNTR to China. I was undecided on which way to vote for quite some time. I met with and talked to those on both sides of the issue.

Although I had several concerns, my biggest were about the reports of religious persecution and other human rights violations that continue to occur in China. It certainly is not fair that anyone - let alone twenty percent of the world's population - live under this kind of injustice. We in America, a great land of freedom and liberty, find these abuses intolerable and inexcusable. Although human rights have improved over the past 20 years since China has opened up its market to world, it has a great deal of progress to make.

I care deeply about many of the issues that have been raised throughout this debate. And I pledge to continue working to ensure that these issues are not forgotten. The evils that the communist government of China perpetuates, such as forced abortion, organ harvesting, religious persecution, weapons proliferation, and the like, should still be addressed. We must do everything we can to not only bring China into the world trading system, but also into the system of international norms, which recognizes the value of human life and rights.

After carefully weighing the issues I decided to support passage of this bill. I also decided it was such an important bill for American and Chinese citizens that it should be passed this year. This caused me to be in the position of voting against several amendments that in any other situation I would have supported. I know several of my other good friends and colleagues did the same.

Now I want to explain some of the conclusions I have reached.

First, the recently signed U.S. - China trade agreement does not require the U.S. to make any concessions. It does not lower tariffs or other trade barriers for Chinese products coming into America. Instead, it forces China to open its market to U.S. goods and services provided the Congress extends PNTR to China. Passage or failure of this bill does not determine whether or not China becomes a member of the WTO. However, since the WTO requires that members treat each other in a non-discriminatory manner, each member country must grant other members permanent normal trade relations. Therefore, if China is not granted PNTR, it is not obligated to live by its WTO trade and market-opening commitments made to the United States.

As I mentioned earlier, China's regime has a poor track record when it comes to the human rights of its more than 1 billion citizens. It still has a long ways to go to become acceptable. But the United States should not isolate the people of China from the exchange of information and products. We should not impede the efforts of Chinese citizens to trade and exchange property, which is an essential aspect of a free society.

The gradual opening of the Chinese market in recent years has been accompanied by very slow, yet positive advancements for religious freedoms in China. For example, consider the comments of Nelson Graham, son of the Reverend Billy Graham and President of East Gates International, a Christian non-profit organization. In his testimony at the Senate Finance Committee earlier this year he said, "I believe that granting China PNTR will not only benefit U.S. businesses and U.S.-based religious organizations but will be one step further towards bettering the relationship between our countries."

He went on to add that the impact of China's increased trade relations with the West has already caused a "proliferation of information exchange [that] has allowed us to be much more effective in developing and organizing our work in the [People's Republic of China]."

These and similar comments by other religious leaders have lead me to believe that increased trade will help the work of these religious organizations and help promote greater freedoms in China. Prior to the gradual market opening of China, religious organizations like Nelson Graham's East Gates International, had little or no way of reaching the spiritually-starved Chinese people. I also want to emphasize that this bill in no way ignores the importance of religious and human rights. It sets up a permanent Commission to monitor human and religious rights and the development of rule of law and democracy- building in China. This Commission will have similar responsibilities as the existing Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe established in 1976, which has proven effective in monitoring and encouraging respect for human rights in Eastern Europe.

Mr. President, at this point I ask unanimous consent that four letters and one op-ed piece I have be inserted into the record to appear following my remarks. Three of the letters are written by the Reverend Billy Graham, Joe Volk of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, and Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network. The other letter is from thirty-two religious leaders representing a broad range of religious organizations. The op-ed was written by Randy Tate, former Executive Direction of the Christian Coalition, and was published in the Washington Times last year. Each communication makes the point that PNTR will benefit U.S. religious organizations with operations in China.

I do not pretend that improvements in religious and human rights in China will happen overnight. Progress in liberty will not be immediate in a country where the government owns most of the property and has strict limits on political and religious association. Not one of us in this body would create a political regime such as that currently operating in China if we were cutting from whole cloth. Unfortunately, history rarely presents such ideal circumstances. Instead, we must address the world as we find it with all its imperfections.

I believe the question each of us must ask ourselves is whether human and religious rights will be improved by refusing China permanent normal trade relations. I see no evidence this would be the case. Rather, I believe that the increase in economic freedom that comes through increased trade relations will, in turn, bring about greater religious freedom and a better environment for human rights as well.

Randy Tate probably summed up this issue best. He said: "Our case for greater trade... is less about money and more about morality. It is about ensuring that one-fifth of the world's population is not shut off from businesses spreading the message of freedom - and ministries spreading the love of God...[I]s it any surprise that some of our nation's most respected religious leaders, from Billy Graham to Pat Robertson, have called for keeping the door to China open?"

I also want to briefly discuss another serious issue which was raised during the PNTR debate - the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by China. While I recognize the sometimes delinquent behavior of China in this area, I believe the amendment which failed used a flawed unilateral and inflexible approach. I want to see the elimination of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. But the President currently has ample authority to sanction foreign entities for proliferation under numerous statutes. Therefore, the problem we now have is a failure by this Administration to effectively deal with the Chinese government to eliminate this proliferation. Some very targeted sanctions were probably in order for some of the Chinese proliferation activity.

But the amendment that was offered would have prescribed a very rigid one-size-fits-all solution. And we must remember that the most effective sanctions are those that are multilateral and those that have general agreement among our allies. The amendment would have required unilateral sanctions which history has shown to be ineffective tools in achieving desired behavior.

I do not believe that trade will cure all of the problems we have with China. Moreover, PNTR should not be considered a gift to China, but rather a challenge for China. The U.S. market is already open to countless Chinese goods. This will not change even if we were to refuse PNTR to China. Instead, if Congress extends PNTR to China it must open its market to the United States. At the same time China must play by the rules of the international trading system, subjecting itself to the WTO's dispute settlement process.

Without PNTR, China can remain closed to U.S. products yet increase its exports to the U.S., further exacerbating our trade deficit with China. This bill is about getting our products into China. By cooperating with them, they will lower tariffs to get into the WTO and then we have a court to adjudicate their violations. PNTR simply allows fair treatment of U.S. products and services going to China once China enters the WTO.

Change will not happen instantly. But I do believe increased trade will help advance the cause of freedom in China. The policy of engagement through trade must be backed up by strong U.S. leadership that vigorously challenges China, on a bilateral basis and through international organizations, about its human rights, weapons proliferation and other obvious shortcomings. But a vote against PNTR doesn't hurt the hard-line communists in China nor does it help the cause of human rights in China. The best way to end these evils is to transform China in to a politically and socially free country. And that transformation will begin with economic freedom. Approving PNTR for China is the next and most important step toward a freer China and a safer world.