Commerce Secretary Pushes for Trade with China

WASHINGTON (05/02/2000) - Pointing to the rapid growth of information technology in China, U.S. Commerce Department Secretary William Daley today urged congressional approval of permanent normal trade relations to China. He said there were no economic arguments against the move but warned that rejection would make an "extremely negative" statement about U.S. trade opportunities.

"This will open their market, and for that we give nothing up in return," said Daley. "The economics of the deal are truly not in question."

Daley was speaking at the Information Technology Association of America's (ITAA) policy summit, an annual meeting focusing on high-tech issues with Commerce Department officials and congressional leaders.

But the idea of normalizing trade with China is coupled with a host of human rights, environmental and labor issues that are being debated in Congress.

"The new China still has its dark sides that no one likes," said Daley. But a vote against the trade pact "will not free a single prisoner in China," he said. "A vote against this will leave China with less access to information."

Daley said the Clinton administration doesn't yet have the votes needed to win House approval of the trade agreement, but neither does the opposition have the votes to defeat it. Most members are undecided, he said.

Next year, the second-largest market in the world for personal computers will be China, said Daley. The country is also linking so many people through wireless communication that "it is like adding a new Baby Bell every year," said Daley.

Permanent normal trade relations have become a leading policy issue for high-tech trade associations that want to sell to the country's vast market.

The trade agreement would open China's markets and cut tariffs in every sector by half or more in five years. The U.S. has a $69 billion trade deficit with China, in part, because U.S. markets are open but China's are not, said Daley.

"For the first time, China will agree to play by the same open-trading rules we play by," Daley said of the trade agreement.

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