PORTLAND, OR – Thomas Donohue, President and CEO of the United States Chamber of Commerce, today called upon Congress, the White House, and officials in China and Taiwan to exercise "leadership, statesmanship, and political courage" during the upcoming debate on Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) for China.
"This could very well be the most important free trade vote in a generation, because this vote will signal to the entire world whether the United States intends to lead the global economy in the new century or retreat from it," Donohue said, in a keynote address to the Pacific Northwest International Trade Association.
Granting China PNTR will not determine whether China enters the World Trade Organization, Donohue pointed out. China will win WTO status by reaching agreement with WTO member countries. The PNTR vote will determine whether American businesses, workers and consumers can reap the benefit of the trade agreement worked out late last year – or whether the U.S. surrenders new jobs and trade opportunities to competitors abroad.
"All-in-all the agreement would boost annual U.S. exports by roughly $13 billion in five years and increase agricultural exports by $2.2 billion per year," said Donohue. "All Congress must do is to grant, on a permanent basis, something it has done every year since 1980 anyway – which is to grant China normal trading relations status."
Donohue called on the Clinton administration to submit to Congress "a clean bill unencumbered by language tying free trade to other issues." He also urged leaders in China and Taiwan to exercise restraint in their statements and actions towards each other and called upon the major U.S. presidential candidates to "show us what kind of President you would be, by supporting the China trade deal and standing up to the political heat.
"Around the world, increased trade raises living standards, opens up closed societies, and generates the wealth needed to pay for social programs," said Donohue. "Using trade as a weapon will not only reduce our influence, but actually hurt the working people, farmers and businesses of our own country."
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business federation representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector and region.