Berger Presses Congress to Grant China Permanent Normal Trade Relations Status

Feb 02, 2000

Reported by Jordan Tama

At a February 2 Director's Forum, National Security Adviser Samuel Berger said that bringing China into the World Trade Organization is vital to American national security as well as economic interests. He decried the recent House vote in favor of the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act as "it would, for the first time, make our military-to-military relationship with Taiwan official and upset the delicate balance across the Taiwan Strait."

Berger's speech was the first major statement in what he said would be a "full court press" by the Clinton administration to encourage Congress to grant China permanent normal trade relations status.

Last November, China and the United States reached an agreement to bring China into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and reduce barriers to U.S. trade with, and investment in, China. But the United States cannot take advantage of the full market-opening benefits of the agreement unless Congress votes to forego its annual review of China's trade status. A congressional vote on granting China permanent normal trade relations status is expected this year.

Berger said the United States has a "tremendous stake in how China evolves" and should encourage China to "define its future within the international community, not outside of it."

He asserted that the agreement is in America's best interests -- from both an economic and a security standpoint. American workers would benefit from the new jobs resulting from increased U.S. exports to China, and American business stands to gain enormously from the favorable market access and dispute settlement mechanisms guaranteed by the agreement -- benefits that will soon be enjoyed by Japan, Europe, and other of America's competitors, he warned.

Berger went on to emphasize that the agreement would advance U.S. national security interests by promoting a more outward-looking and democratic China that is a force for stability in Asia. "Bringing China into the WTO doesn't guarantee it will make the right choice for political reform. But by accelerating the process of economic change, it will force China to confront that choice sooner, and make the imperative for that choice far more powerful."

Meanwhile, the U.S. should continue to pressure China into adhering to global norms on human rights, proliferation, and the environment, Berger stressed.

Voicing the Clinton administration's firm opposition to the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act, he said the United States should not change the terms of reference of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship that were encoded by the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. That law allows the United States to arm Taiwan with defensive weapons but establishes no formal military relationship between Washington and Taipei.

The security enhancement act would establish direct military communications between the United States and Taiwan, expand American training of Taiwan military officers, and mandate an annual review of threats to Taiwan's security. Berger said he was optimistic that the administration would be able to convince the Senate to vote against the bill, which passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 341 to 70.