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Barshefsky: What We've Accomplished In China

Readers Report


Robert Kuttner's column "Is this a China policy--or a bad dream?" (Economic Viewpoint, May 26) presents a distorted picture of the actual objectives that will determine whether China becomes a member of the World Trade Organization. First, why bring China into the WTO? The answer is that there is no better way to integrate China's economy and trading system into international norms and institutions, introduce the rule of law, and accelerate fundamental economic reforms in China.

From the onset of these negotiations, the Clinton Administration has stated what its expectations and requirements are for China's accession clearly and consistently: China must provide substantial market access for American goods, services, and agricultural products, and it must agree to abide by the rules of international trade enforced in the WTO.

Whether China can meet the comprehensive agenda that we have put forward as a condition of its membership in the WTO is an open question--one that only the Chinese government can answer. But to cut off these ongoing negotiations would be counterproductive and irresponsible. The WTO talks provide a basis for rebalancing a trade relationship that is in need of correction.

On issue after issue, the Clinton Administration has demonstrated its resolve to achieve significant reforms in China's trade practices and introduce the rule of law in China. Since 1994, under two separate trade agreements on textile and apparel products, our agreements have served to reduce textile and apparel imports from China. We acted unilaterally in bringing about an unprecedented crackdown on intellectual-property piracy in China. The record shows that when it comes to knowledge of China's trading practices, putting forward comprehensive reforms of China's economy, and enforcing market-opening conditions, the work of our negotiators is second to none.

Charlene Barshefsky

U.S. Trade Representative

Executive Office of the President


Robert Kuttner has served up a hefty portion of rhetoric du jour with a badly flawed piece on China's accession to the World Trade Organization. The "historic blunder" at hand is not that the U.S. will slide China under the door at the WTO. It would be just the opposite: that just at the moment of achieving a legitimate package for China's WTO accession--embodying the wrenching economic measures that we have legitimately demanded (at the insistence, incidentally, of the very business community that Kuttner's herd instinct leads him to mislabel as "a domestic China lobby")--the U.S. could walk away from the deal for domestic political reasons.

What's more, in the process, we would waste a precious opportunity to bring China's practices into line with the demands of the rules-based multilateral trading system. That would be the tragic and ominous outcome of the Donorgate-driven mixing of domestic U.S. political machinations with major China policy developments.

Robert A. Kapp


U.S.-China Business Council

WashingtonReturn to top


Through its focus on star talent salaries, "The Art of the Deal" (Cover Story: Information Technology Annual Report, June 2) misses the issue: A "megahit" series such as Seinfeld has a trickle-down effect on the skyrocketing cost of television writers and producers, not just actors. TV producer salaries can account for as much as 30% to 40% of the costs of a hit sitcom, prior to producers' piece of the backend, which can greatly exceed that given to star talent.

In the industry's frantic search for the next Seinfeld, the networks and studios are bidding up the prices of not only established talent but also of unproven writers, to unprecedented levels. Very few of these bets actually pay off, requiring a limited number of profitable hits to exceed the costs of the many failed series and the unproductive talent deals. As a result, the hit-driven economics of prime-time TV series now resemble those of feature films, but without the ability to project ultimate value after one weekend at the box office or the opportunity to release 20 films each year.

The newly combined network/studios could combat this dilemma by using their distribution strength to alter deal terms, but they have yet to do so out of fear of alienating the creative community and missing the next big hit.

Virl Hill

Los AngelesReturn to top

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