Trade Agreement to Boost U.S. Business, but at What Cost?
Feduschak, Natalia A., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
The U.S.-Chinese trade agreement signed in Beijing yesterday would open up China's markets to American companies, particularly benefiting the telecommunications and financial industries.
China agreed to cut tariffs and other trade barriers that keep U.S. products away from China's 1.3 billion consumers, which could mean billions of dollars in increased sales for U.S. companies - from manufacturers and banks to high-technology companies.
Banking, insurance, telecommunications and energy companies already doing business in China should have an easier time doing business in general, while Beijing will have increased access to the U.S. market, said Willard Workman, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The agreement "is one less hurdle that business has to cross in order to do business in China," he said. "At least on the surface . . . it increases American firms' access for their goods and services to the China market. In the medium term, China is committed to play by international terms. They won't be trade cowboys any more."
But critics warned that the Clinton administration appears to have caved in to pressure from multinational corporations at the expense of U.S. workers and the environment.
Alan Tonelson of the conservative U.S. Business and Industry Council, condemned the agreement, saying the administration bowed to pressure from multinational corporations interested in cheap labor at the sake of jobs at home.
"When they look at China, they see a low cost market for manufacturing," he said. "The big victim is the American worker," he said.
He also was concerned that China will become immune to U.S. trade laws once it becomes a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), because the group's rules take precedence over those of member nations. That will leave Washington with little leverage if Beijing dumps products on the U.S. market, subsidizes imports or steals intellectual property, he said.
"The history of U.S.-China trade policy is . . . we negotiate agreements we show no interest in enforcing, and they negotiate agreements they have no interest in complying with," Mr. Tonelson said.
But until U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky returns to Washington with the deal's specifics, few knew exactly what the deal will entail.
"What we've read is a glossed-over summary that's been issued," Mr. Workman said. "They've touched all the broad areas, but we in business deal on the micro level."
Bob Suettinger, a China specialist at the Brookings Institution, said if the agreement is similar to the one rejected by the Clinton administration in April, it will benefit the United States. That deal was generally considered good for U.S. business, analysts said, but Mr. Clinton backed away from it, hoping to win additional concessions from the Chinese on textiles, banking and anti-dumping issues.
"But I caution one shouldn't overstate the case here," he said. "This is not the new panacea. China is not an easy country to do business in."
China agreed to reduce its tariffs on U.S. goods from an average of 22.1 percent down to 17 percent …
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Publication information: Article title: Trade Agreement to Boost U.S. Business, but at What Cost?. Contributors: Feduschak, Natalia A. - Author. Newspaper title: The Washington Times (Washington, DC). Publication date: November 16, 1999. Page number: 1. © 2009 The Washington Times LLC. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.
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