IT companies and organisations yesterday welcomed the US House of Representatives vote in favor of approving permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with China. The vote passed by 237 to 197, having required 218 votes to go ahead.
"We applaud the vote by Congress today, it sets a very positive tone... to encourage cooperation and partnerships with Chinese companies," Christine Trimble, a spokeswoman for US mobile telecommunications technology company Qualcomm, said in a phone interview. Qualcomm is hoping that China implements its CDMA (code division multiple access) mobile telephony technology as one of the main ways to connect up the nation's more than 1.2 billion population.
"It (the approval of PNTR) is good for all U.S. companies doing business in China today and also serves to provide a level playing field for US companies (doing business in China) with respect to their competitors in Europe, Japan and Korea," Trimble added.
The US high-technology sector has been lobbying Congress hard for approval of PNTR for some time as China is likely to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) before the end of this year. A central tenet of the WTO is that members approve permanent normal trade relations with each other.
On its accession to the WTO, China intends to do away with the current tariffs on semiconductors as well as adopt a set of common business practices making it easier for foreign companies to operate more directly in China and open up the nation's telecommunications and Internet markets to foreign investors.
The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) in a statement issued today said that PNTR represents a huge opportunity for the chip industry since China's annual semiconductor market is already valued at $US8 billion and, according to analysts, is likely to become the second-largest global market by 2010. The body described congressional approval of PNTR with China as having been SIA's "number one legislative objective this year."
"Today's vote will open China, the world's largest emerging market to American goods and services, creating American jobs and increasing US exports," SIA President George Scalise said in today's statement.
Motorola Inc.'s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Christopher Galvin also welcomed the approval of PNTR for China. "Simply stated, more exports to China mean more opportunities for American companies and more jobs for American workers," he said in a statement issued today. "... Approval of PNTR strengthens our hand across the board in dealing with the complete range of issues bearing on our economic and national security interests."
Industry body the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) added its congratulations to the passage of PNTR with ITAA President Harris Miller saying in a statement issued today, "The global village just got smaller. China is a $48 billion marketplace for technology products, growing at a compound annual rate of 30 percent over the last seven years."
Miller applauded the fact that the US and China should soon be able to become equal trading partners. "China has finally agreed to come to the trading table on equal terms," he said in today's statement. "Trade with China will strengthen global economic leadership for the U.S., and will force China to play by the same rules as our other trading partners around the globe."
Next on the agenda is gaining U.S. Senate approval to pass the PNTR legislation, although that's not likely to be such an important issue as passage of the vote through the House of Representatives given that U.S. President Bill Clinton has already announced his support for PNTR.