Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Biggest China Boosters: Boeing, GM, Motorola as Congress Debates Trade Status, Beijing Is Content to Rely on Corporate America to Make the Trade Case

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Biggest China Boosters: Boeing, GM, Motorola as Congress Debates Trade Status, Beijing Is Content to Rely on Corporate America to Make the Trade Case

Article excerpt

The $100,000 that China allegedly channeled through a Democratic Party insider to try to influence US policy is pocket change compared with the war chest of the real China lobby: US business interests.

Last week, the multimillion-dollar lobby again mustered its forces for the annual tug of war to win renewal of China's most-favored- nation (MFN) trade status. Opponents in Congress have 90 days to reject President Clinton's recommendation of June 5 to extend China's privileges.

The pro-China business coalition is one of the most powerful in Washington and shows the growing role of US interest groups in shaping American foreign policy. With an aggressive lobbying effort on Capitol Hill and campaign contributions amounting to tens of millions annually, it has helped win renewal of MFN for China each year since 1989 despite opposition based largely on Beijing's poor human rights record, say congressional sources. Most recently, the big firms have been reaching beyond Washington's Beltway. Across the country, they are orchestrating a push by thousands of subcontractors, businesses, and local officials to promote preferential trading status as a catalyst for progressive change in China. "Engagement with China is the best way of ensuring that we continue the sorts of economic and political improvements we've seen," asserts Bill Morley, director of congressional affairs for the US Chamber of Commerce, which represents 200,000 member firms. Indeed, so influential is the business lobby - led by Boeing, General Motors, Eastman Chemical, and Motorola - that Beijing has assumed a low-profile, ringside posture, analysts say. "Chinese officials decided that Beijing's interests would be better served by allowing US business groups to speak for themselves," according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS). China is not one the top 10 countries lobbying in Washington. Given Beijing's lack of popularity with the American public, the low-key strategy is probably more effective, the CRS report concludes. Behind the scenes, however, Beijing quietly wields the stick of trade retaliation and the carrot of a vast domestic market to goad US firms to do its bidding. "If we deny China MFN it would be viewed as an aggressive act and an act of economic warfare," warns Calman Cohen, co-chairman of the Business Coalition for US-China Trade. The organization of nearly 80 trade groups and companies is a driving force promoting MFN for China. …

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