By Peter Friedmann, Counsel, CONECT
Clearly the most important trade issue facing this country since the NAFTA vote five years ago is the issue of Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China. The importance of this vote goes beyond China. This is why the business community is investing so much effort in passing PNTR, and why organized labor is fighting so hard to defeat it.
The upcoming vote is seen as a barometer of US trade intention, to either continue to participate in the international trade community, or to cut ourselves off. If we deny PNTR with China, organized labor will have won and there will be other consequences, including the possible denial of NTR with Vietnam and denial of the necessary authority to the President to negotiate new trade agreements.
Meanwhile, the European Union has moved forward to adopt a free trade agreement with Mexico, and is negotiating a free trade agreement with Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay).
Thus, every company engaged in international trade has a stake in seeing the China PNTR vote succeed on Capitol Hill. Some companies may feel that they should not step forward. The following points maybe helpful to you as you consider whether to have your company communicate its support of PNTR to your Congressional Delegation.
1. PNTR vote will ultimately determine whether China will be a stable dependable source for US importers, or whether Chinese products will be threatened annually the restrictions.
2. The China PNTR vote will determine whether the US continues to reduce trade barriers globally (Vietnam, Latin America, etc.) thus reducing the tariffs paid on products imported from many other countries as well.
3. A company choosing to stand for China PNTR is not standing alone—the US Chamber of Commerce has made this one of the very top issues and has encouraged every member company to educate its employees and vendors and to write Congress in favor of China PNTR. In addition, the Business Round Table is engaged in a nationwide effort to generate input to Congress from thousands of companies.
Virtually all the Fortune 500 companies and many thousands more have already written Congress. It is of course important to recognize that China (as well as many other companies) can and should improve the social and human rights of their citizens. But it is also important to recognize that every legitimate human rights organization favors a continued western presence in China. No human rights group seeks the withdrawal of western business from China.
4. Keep in mind that Permanent Normal Trade Relations is not some sort of special privilege being given to China. 133 other countries already have it. In other words, countries such as Rwanda, Colombia, virtually every other country in the world presently has PNTR. Should not China as well?