U.S. Business Praises, Decries China Trade Deal

In the U.S., most of the business pronouncements being heaped on this week's trade deal between the U.S. and China -- and for U.S. support for China's membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) -- are predictably positive. For example, "Whether it's improved market access, distribution rights for U.S. exporters, new access for companies from banks to insurance [firms] to telecommunications, or even China's new commitment to abide by the WTO settlement process, this agreement will increase opportunities for American manufacturers and their workers," predicts National Assn. of Manufacturers President Jerry J. Jasinowski. Similarly, says Scott Miller, chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Alliance for Trade Expansion, a 250-member business, consumer, and agriculture coalition, "The more trade barriers fall, the more new customers there are for American products and services, which makes a better life for workers and families here and abroad." The agreement "has the promise of developing a more competitive telecommunications environment in China, bringing lower prices and a wider selection of telecommunications products to the Chinese marketplace. [And] with sales of telecom infrastructure equipment rising rapidly over the past decade, fair and transparent access to China's marketplace is a welcome sign for U.S. industry," believes Matthew J. Flanigan, president of the Telecommunications Industry Assn. (TIA) , Arlington, Va. China bought about US$21 billion worth of telecommunications equipment in 1998, nearly 10 times its $1.2 billion in purchases in 1990, according to TIA. However, Bradley D. Belt, vice president for international finance and economic policy at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, wonders if the deal is "a day late and a dollar short." If the agreement is better than the pact the U.S. and China came close to concluding this past April, "then it can at least be argued that it was worth holding out for more," he says. But, "if it is an 'April-minus' agreement, then the [Clinton] Administration will be hard pressed to convince a skeptical Congress that this deal is worth doing, and worth doing now." Meanwhile, Doug Ellis, chairman and CEO of Southern Mills Inc., Atlanta, and president of the Washington, D.C.-based American Textile Manufacturers Institute, is just plain disappointed that the trade deal doesn't provide for a 10-year phased elimination of U.S. quotas on Chinese textiles and apparel. "Every other WTO member has faced a 10-year phaseout period. [And] agreeing to China's demands for a five-year phaseout will cost the United States some 150,000 fiber, textile, and apparel jobs and lost U.S. production in the billions of dollars."

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