|AFL-CIO ON TRADE WITH CHINA|
March 23, 2000
Testimony of John J. Sweeney, President
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
Before the Senate Finance Committee on U.S. Trade with China and China's Accession to the WTO
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm delighted to have an opportunity to appear before this Committee on behalf of the 13 million members of the AFL-CIO and our affiliated unions.
Congress will soon be asked to grant permanent normal trading relations to the Peoples Republic of China.
You should not.
An affirmative vote would reward the Chinese government at a time when there has been significant deterioration in its abysmal human rights record and would significantly reduce our ability to insist upon improvement in the future. It would also dramatically weaken our ability to insist that China live up to trade agreements that it has already signed, and that it routinely violates.
The record is clear.
China routinely tramples human rights and religious liberty. It is a massive user of prison labor, and, according to the Laogai Research Foundation, operates over a thousand forced labor camps, many of which produce commercial goods.
The Chinese government does not allow workers to join free and independent trade unions and imprisons those who try to exercise this fundamental right to freedom of association and to organize.
Tens of thousands of Chinese citizens have been detained for daring to express their religious views. For instance, Amnesty International reports that over 200 Roman Catholics were arrested when they tried to celebrate Mass in 1997.
Both the U.S. State Department and the United Nations have concluded that China's human rights record is deteriorating, not improving. The State Department finds that China's active human rights dialogs with a large number of countries "have not produced significant improvements in the government's human rights practices."
As you know, Mr. Chairman, I could go on and on with examples of the Chinese government's outrageous repression of human rights.
The question that will be before this Committee and the Senate is, in effect: will the United States make it easier for the Chinese government to go on repressing its citizens and violating every norm of international conduct? We believe that a grant of permanent normal trade relations will have exactly that effect. It will signal to the Chinese government that the international community will continue to turn a blind eye and welcome China to a seat at the table.
Not only will that send the wrong message to China, but China will use its seat at the table to obstruct the efforts of the U.S. government and other countries to insist that those who wish to gain benefits from the world trading system must meet international standards with respect to core workers' rights and environmental standards.
President Clinton was correct when he told the World Trade Organization that labor and environmental standards ought to be incorporated in the rules governing the trading system. China's unchecked accession to the WTO will work against those goals directly and indirectly. First, it will, perversely, give the world's biggest law breaker a voice in writing the rules. Second, it will signal to others that we don't mean what we say and that they can continue to repress their citizens and violate international standards without any fear that they will be called to account.
On these grounds alone, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, you should refuse to grant China a blank check by voting no on permanent normal trade relations. But the story does not end here.
China also routinely violates existing trade agreements, and high-ranking Chinese officials have made it clear that they have no intention of living up to the deal negotiated with the United States in Beijing last fall.
Since 1992 the United States and China have entered into four bilateral agreements - on market opening, prison labor, intellectual property rights, and textiles. The Chinese government has failed to live up to its obligations in all four cases. The annual USTR report on foreign trade barriers lays out China's failure to comply in numbing detail. Mr. Chairman, I'm sure you are familiar with USTR's report, so I will not recite their findings here, but simply observe that the violations are blatant, widespread, and continuing.
And if past behavior were not bad enough to raise questions about Chinese intentions with respect to the latest agreement, we need only turn to the words of the Chinese leaders themselves.
* In a November 1999 fact sheet discussing the U.S. China accession agreement, the USTR reports, "China agrees to award (insurance) licenses solely on the basis of prudential criteria, with no economic needs test or quantitative limits." Just a few days later Ma Yongwei, chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission told the Financial Times that "Beijing reserved the right to block licenses for foreign insurance companies if their approval seemed to threaten stability of economic policy."
* The USTR also reports that with respect to meat exports, "China has also agreed to the elimination of SPS barriers that are not based on scientific evidence." But Chinese trade official Long Yongtu told the South China Morning Post, that although Beijing had agreed to allow 7.3 million tons of wheat from the United States to be exported to the mainland each year, "it is a complete misunderstanding" to expect this grain to enter the country.
Mr. Chairman, I could go on and quote Chinese officials saying they have no intention to honor commitments with respect to telecommunications, wheat, autos, and petroleum, but time is short. The record is clear. China has not lived up to past commitments, has no intention of living up to its latest commitments, and if we grant permanent NTR we will have given up our ability to protect our interest by using bilateral tools to respond when violations occur.
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, let me sum up.
China routinely violates the rights of its people and agreed-to norms of international behavior. The United States is seeking to strengthen the ability of the international community to insist that standards are adhered to, but the Chinese government has made it clear that if it joins the World Trade Organization it will oppose those efforts. And finally, Mr. Chairman, China has failed to live up to past commitments, and Chinese leaders have clearly communicated that practice will continue. Contrary to the Administration's claims, granting permanent normal trade relations will effectively pardon China's past violations and give the government a blank check for the future.
Thank you for your attention. I will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.
Source: AFL-CIO and Senate Finance Committee