Tech Coalition Urges Yes Vote on China Trade

WASHINGTON (04/11/2000) - Armed with facts and figures on the potential benefits of improved trade relations between the United States and China, a high-technology coalition has been canvassing the U.S. Capitol urging an affirmative vote on permanent normal trade relations with China.

The U.S. High-Tech Industry Coalition on China has held about 200 meetings with members of U.S. Congress and their staff since the middle of February when the coalition kicked off its lobbying efforts, coalition officials said today at a news conference held here.

The coalition, which is supported by the American Electronics Association (AEA), the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) and several other technology groups, plans to intensify its lobbying efforts between now and the vote, said Jim Whittaker, chairman of the coalition and director of international public policy for Hewlett-Packard Co.

The House has scheduled a vote on PNTR (permanent normal trade relations) with China for the week of May 22, and the Senate has begun hearings in the Finance Committee.

There is "strong, bipartisan support" in Congress for PNTR with China, Whittaker said, but he couldn't say exactly how many members now support it.

"I think we have a very good story about what will occur in our industry" if PNTR passes, Whittaker said when asked about the coalition's strategy. "What we are trying to do is continue to talk about that. For us, it does mean jobs; it does mean growth; and we believe it's good for the economy as well," he added.

Among the statistics the U.S. High-Tech Industry Coalition on China cites to justify its support for PNTR are a 20 percent annual growth rate in computer sales in China, a 28 percent annual growth rate in software sales and China's US$8 billion semiconductor market.

Whittaker was joined at today's news conference by representatives of the various industry associations along with economists Clyde Prestowitz of the Economic Strategy Institute and Claude Barfield of the American Enterprise Institute.

The importance to the U.S. high-tech industry of passage of PNTR for China cannot be overstated, the officials said, particularly because failure to approve it will give other countries a chance to step into the void.

"If we deny China PNTR, we would be in the position of having enabled the rest of the world to gain greater access to the Chinese market while we ourselves would remain locked out," Prestowitz said. "This is one of those few deals which is a win-win-win and we should do it."

The trade association representatives said the deal would not cost American jobs or increase the U.S. trade deficit. They believe it will put more Americans to work in high-tech jobs while at the same time help promote social and economic change in China.

PNTR is linked to the bilateral agreement reached between the U.S. and China in November of last year concerning China's proposed entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). [See "US, China Reach WTO Deal," Nov. 15, 1999.]Several other WTO members are currently negotiating bilateral agreements with China, and when they are complete, a WTO committee will review all the separate agreements and China's trade law regime, said Tim Bennett, senior vice president for international matters for the American Electronics Association (AEA).

The committee will have an opportunity to make recommendations for changes before the WTO council votes on China's membership.

"The combination of those recommendations and the bilateral agreements constitute China's price of admission to WTO," Bennett said.

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