Posted by spaul on 03/31/2008
Every day, America sends the equivalent of $700 million to China. That's the toll of our imbalanced trade relationship with the "butchers of Beijing." We send our manufacturing jobs, consumer dollars, and technological know-how to China. In return, we receive low-cost, under-inspected, and, all too often, unsafe consumer products. China uses its $256 billion annual trade surplus with the U.S. to fund weapons programs aimed at challenging U.S. military supremacy in the Pacific, build a new electronic "Great Firewall" to limit free speech and dissent, and crush Tibetans who seek to preserve their culture and religion. A small portion of that low, low price you pay at the big box store for a DVD player or pair of pants makes its way back to the communist regime's coffers, which now are filled with more than $1.4 trillion in foreign currency.
The recent crackdown in Tibet shows just how wrong those pundits and politicians really are who claimed that trade will open China. As a Senate candidate in 2000, Hillary Clinton supported granting China permanent, unconditional access to the U.S. market, citing its potential for opening China to greater rights. Senator McCain voted for the bill, which was championed by President Bill Clinton. Even former Senator John Edwards got snookered on this one. Senator Obama claims he would have voted against this bill; only seven Senate Democrats actually did.
Never have so many Senators (83 voted for it!) been so wrong. No one can plausibly make the argument that democracy and human rights are improving in China. No one can credibly make the case that our commercial relations with China have benefited. China is the largest unsolved international economic question of our time. So what can be done now?
We can start by lowering our trade deficit with China. China should stop manipulating its currency to gain a trade advantage. It should stop subsidizing its industries to give them an unfair advantage. And the administration can start enforcing our own trade laws which safeguard American workers, consumers, and businesses against this market-distorting behavior. China mocks our cowardice. But China would not risk access to our market if America were willing to make such access conditional on an end to cheating.
In upcoming primary states like Pennsylvania, Indiana, and North Carolina, this issue is critical. The job losses are mounting. Pennsylvania has shed 78,000 jobs due to our trade deficit with China; 45,000 have been lost in Indiana, and 77,000 in North Carolina. Let's hope that our candidates get the message.
This blog is cross-posted on The Huffington Post.