I apologize if this has been done before - I was shocked when a search didn’t turn up any threads. And I was also shocked to see mattmcl and pldennison on the same side of an issue in the Cultural Imperialism thread in GQ.
In 2000, Congress passed a bill to permanently normalize trade relations with China (PNTR). This granted China “Most Favored Nation” status needed to enter the World Trade Organization, removing the annual Senate review. The U.S. has granted MFN status to China every year since 1977 - not revoking it even during the Tiannemen square protests and subsequent crackdown. Basically, the agreement just rubber-stamped something that was already in place. China’s membership in the WTO will subject it to WTO rules and arbitration processes, giving the U.S. an outlet for grievances that did not exist previously.
For the opponents of PNTR, and those who think we should link trade with China to their human rights record, I’d like to ask a couple questions:
Do you think we should stop trading with China until they clean up their human rights record? Given the misinformation that regularly comes out of Beijing, what would it take to convince you that things were better? 10 years of positive Amnesty International reports? The fall of the communist government?
Do you think that China would change anything about its practices based on the say-so of the U.S. and the threat of an end to trade?
Do you think that the presence of U.S. companies in China helps or hurts Chinese workers and citizens? Why?
How do you answer the arguments of the pro-trade side that greater political freedom will come through greater economic freedom and exposure to American business practices, products (the internet, cell phones) and ideas?
The PNTR agreement has strict language about child and convict labor - the U.S. has the right to close our markets to goods produced by children and convicts. Does this make a difference in the way you view the agreement?
To be open about my own views and position, I am an avid opponent of “People’s Republics” and communist governments. The human rights abuses routinely committed by China’s government sicken me, and I do feel squeamish about sending the message that China is A-OK as long as America is making money on the deal.
However, I am a “free-trader.” I do believe greater economic freedom and interaction will increase personal freedom for the Chinese people - once the genie of the free market is out of the bottle the government will have trouble putting it back in. Greater trade is the first step towards greater freedom.