February 16, 2000
The U.S.-China Bilateral Trade Agreement and China's Accession to the WTO
Committee on Ways and Means
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Rangel and members of the Committee:
My name is Chuck Mack and Im an International Vice President, Western Region, for the Teamsters Union. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My statement will focus on the question of granting permanent Normal Trade Relations (NTR) status to China.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters strongly opposes permanent NTR status for the following reasons:
China doesnt deserve it. Its one of the most repressive countries in the world. Its record on human rights and workers rights is outrageous. From the mid-1960s to mid-1970s, we witnessed Chinese citizens being persecuted, murdered and forced into labor all in the name of the so-called "cultural revolution". In 1979, we witnessed the Chinese Government suppress the Democracy Wall. Activists were arrested, including Wei JingSheng. In 1989, we witnessed the Beijing massacre at Tianenman Square. Hundreds of innocent civilians were slaughtered tens of thousands were arrested and imprisoned. Every leader in Chinas pro-democracy movement has been executed, exiled or jailed. And today, we witness continued abuse of the Chinese people. Thousands are detained or beaten for their worship of God, for expressing their own views, for seeking freedom from oppression.
This is a country that does not allow freedom of speech, does not tolerate dissent, will not permit freedom of association and persecutes those practicing religion.
Organizing a union in China is a crime against the State. It guarantees a quick trip to jail. Forced labor, prison labor, no independent Unions, only those controlled by the Communist Party are the order of the day.
Does it make sense to reward China, a country so abnormal when it comes to human rights, with NTR status? Hardly. Right now, the only leverage existing to get China to do the right thing is the annual NTR review.
We buy forty percent of Chinas exports thats powerful a lot of clout if we want to use it. As long as we continue annual review, we can debate and spotlight the issue of basic worker and human rights in China.
Even further, we have the ability to predicate access to the U.S. market on achievement of gains on these rights. However, once China is given permanent NTR, the leverage is gone. Congress will have no ability or power to influence China on these rights.
Worse yet, what kind of a message do we send to the world if the U.S. grants China NTR? That profit, open markets, trans-national business take precedence? That human rights and worker rights are for sale, or theyre not allowed to get in the way of economic expediency?
As Democracy activists Harry Wu and Wei Jingsheng have often stated, " increased trade, not linked to human rights, merely enriches the regime and the vast network of enterprises it controls, increasing its strange-hold on the Chinese people."
Rather than turning our back, we should be demanding that basic worker rights and human rights are the price for doing business in the United States. If not us, who?
I had an opportunity to read a summary of the U.S.-China Bilateral Trade Agreement. Hey, it takes care of everybody almost. Agriculture, industrial production, banking, audio visual, and securities, to name a few. The only thing missing workers!
Now, the Teamsters arent opposed to trade. To the contrary, many of our members livelihoods are tied to it. But trade has to have a human face it has to be environmentally sensitive. Thats what the Seattle WTO protests were about!
However, trade with China is all about money new markets low labor costs little or no environmental regulation and non-existent work safety regulations.
If NTR is okayed, its going to be a boon, a windfall, the proverbial gold mine for trans-national corporations. But what does it mean for the rest of us? Not much.
Therell be an increasing trade deficit for the United States. Right now, that deficit is around $68 billion annually. If China is granted NTR and access to the WTO, the deficit will go up. Some estimate itll go as high as $104 billion by 2002.
Job loss. Thats what trade deficit means. So does a trade policy that forces American workers to compete with goods made by workers whose rights are violated daily and who have no power to make change.
Think about it. What business wouldnt be interested in relocating to a country that guarantees low wages, no worker safety standards, no independent Unions and no strikes. I cant think of any.
If the trade deficit moves as predicted, it will mean a manufacturing job loss of 600,000. With whats already gone, were talking over a million jobs. Yeah, I know, business claims the agreement will create new jobs. We heard the same promise during the NAFTA debate and it didnt happen. In fact, we lost jobs. Id like to submit for the record, Mr. Chairman, a letter by Teamster President James P. Hoffa to John Welch, Chief Executive Officer of General Electric. It provides a concrete example of U.S. jobs being shipped across the border as a result of NAFTA. Interestingly enough, G.E. recently announced they intend to make significant investments in China.
NTR also means a one-way street, or more accurately a one-sided agreement. Theyre going to get our money, our technology, our jobs, and, if past understandings are any measure, only live up to that part of the deal they want to.
In 1992 and 1994 China violated memorandum of understandings on market access. In 1992 and 1996 they violated understandings on intellectual property rights. Theyve also violated agreements on non-proliferation of weapons and human rights.
Eliminating annual review is not going to make it better. China cant be trusted. That alone should be reason to say "No to NTR."
Were respectfully asking Congress to vote against a proposal that smacks of corporate greed, one that benefits an unholy alliance of trans-national corporations and Chinas repressive Communist Dictatorship.
Were asking Congress to reject a proposal that perpetuates exploitation of workers here, there and everywhere around the world.
Source: Teamsters Union and the Ways and Means Committee