In what might become a key issue in the November election is China s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). In case you haven t noticed the WTO has been a key issue over the past couple of months. Groups have been blaming the WTO for all the world s problems. “The WTO is anti-(insert any item here),” is something that I can always chuckle at. However, I will concede this to anti-WTO groups, China s entry is something that needs to be carefully examined. Do we allow a murderous, corrupt, communist regime into the civilized world s economic system? Reluctantly, I say yes.
China s vast potential as an economic powerhouse has been noticed by outsiders for centuries. Just getting access to even ten percent is enough to send profits soaring. However, this comes with a high price tag. China s huge bureaucratic, centrally controlled government, has been ill equipped to handle foreign trade. Walk the streets of Bejing or any other major city and you will find an abundance of copied goods. Copies of Windows 98 or the latest CD can be found pirated by individuals, companies, or even the government with no royalties going to those who earned it.
China has shown no interest in cracking down on this blatant violation of international trade laws. The People s “Liberation” Army has even undertaken profit adventures outside government control. Yet, would this change if they were allowed into the WTO? I believe it would and I ll explain later. We have been dealing with a regime that has killed millions of people for years now. China has a strict population control policy. Couples are limited to one child and many women are sterilized or forced to have abortions to maintain this policy. This shows a complete disregard for the sanctity of human life.
This government crushed a peaceful demonstration of democratic activists in Tiannamen Square. The government crushes all dissent and allows no free speech. Using its trade surplus with us, China has built up its armed forces. Its forces are becoming more high-tech with better equipment and they are training specifically to fight the United States. Yet, we continue to embrace China. How have they thanked us? They have stolen our nuclear technology, tried to influence our elections, and in 1996 even threatened attack Los Angeles with a nuclear weapon.
These actions hardly show a maturity to be on the world s stage. Despite my misgivings about this “engagement” policy it has shown some progress in reforming China. China has begun to close down its massive and inefficient state run factories with more western style factories. Before the glare of western journalists the government even began cracking down on the pirate shops, although thousands still remain and operate without any crackdowns. China also started a limited system of private ownership. Someday a hardworking Chinese worker might have the luxury of owning his own apartment though loans.
China has even used the slogan “profit is good” to describe its “One Country, Two Systems” approach. This is hardly the language of a communist system. Some rural provinces have been given the “privilege” of electing their own officials, not to serve in government, but to carry out the orders of Bejing. While I don t consider these real, true reforms they are a step. Here s why I think WTO membership might actually work for China and for the United States. Critics have argued that this will take away American jobs. I remember hearing this same argument when NAFTA was founded.
I believe Ross Perot used the term “a giant sucking sound” to describe the huge loss of jobs that came with free trade. It never happened and our economy has benefited strongly from free trade. Recently the U. S. unemployment rate is at 3. 9 percent. We re even considering importing workers, because there are not enough to work. We tried hiding behind tariffs and it hurt our economy. We must never repeat the mistakes of the past. Our world is now a global society and we must embrace that. Despite all the misgivings I have about the WTO it has a formidable enforcement clause.
China will have to comply with this agreement. They will have to fully comply. If China doesn t comply it will face sanctions until it does comply. This agreement will also allow our formidable industries access to the lucrative Chinese market. Imagine the demand for Intel chips if American industries had access to a billion Chinese citizens who want to get on the Internet or the monetary reward for the hard working farmer if they had access to the Chinese market. This is too good of an opportunity to pass up. If this treaty is refused then we will become isolated on the world s stage.
Other countries will continue to trade with China, while we sit on the outside. The cold hard fact is that one day China will be the biggest economy in the world, eventually passing the U. S. China might have the luxury one day of granting us the right to trade in their country. By opening China up right now we will make sure they always stay open and respect established trading rules. This deal will contribute to the well being of our economy, protect jobs in the long run, and, hopefully, encourage true democratic reforms in a country that one day will become the world s largest economy.