Barshefsky: What We've Accomplished In China

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


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