Passage of trade legislation in House and Senate committees last week intensified debate in the media over the pros and cons of establishing permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with China. This legislation, which would make China a permanent trading partner with the US, has made strange bedfellows between agricultural and hi-tech business leaders and Democrats and Republicans alike.
Passage of trade legislation in House and Senate committees last
week intensified debate in the media over the pros and cons of
establishing permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with China. This
legislation, which would make China a permanent trading partner with the
US, has made strange bedfellows between agricultural and hi-tech
business leaders and Democrats and Republicans alike.
According to research by CARMA International, the majority of commentary
expressed the belief that trade with China would help further democracy
there. Spokespeople in both the Republican and Democratic parties,
including President Clinton and Gov. George W. Bush, conveyed their
beliefs that trade with China would benefit not just the American
economy, but the citizens of China. ’Trade is a lever that will nudge
the Chinese people toward democratic change,’ said Bush (The Washington
Times, May 18).
The media also outlined the ways in which PNTR might benefit the US
Journalists cited reduction of the trade deficit with China and more
American jobs as two possible results. Congressional leaders gave a
human face to the discussions by giving examples from their home states
of farmers and blue-collar workers who will benefit. Minnesota Gov.
Jesse Ventura spoke of his own farm and others: ’I’ve met with all our
leaders of agriculture.
I’ve had ag leaders tell me over the next 10 years this could literally
double what we’re able to sell right now’ (CNBC, May 17). These
sentiments were shared by Hewlett-Packard president and CEO Carly
Fiorina, whose editorial in the Los Angeles Times (May 18) stated: ’In
reality, a vote against trade with China is a vote against US
Opponents to the legislation most often expressed their conviction that
China should be boycotted for human rights violations and security
Critics, such as potential Reform Party presidential candidate Pat
Buchanan, accused Congress of ’throwing away its leverage over China at
the very moment the Chinese are threatening Taiwan with war and even
threatening our country’ (ABC, May 17). Proponents answered this
criticism by pointing to China’s recent negotiations with the WTO. The
media reported that if the US did not engage in trade with China, others
There was little criticism of PNTR regarding the possible negative
economic impacts for the American economy. ’Basically, big business is
trying to harness the power of the US government to help it edge out
other countries and get in on the ground floor of privatization in
China,’ said Judy Ancel of the Institute for Labor Studies at the
University of Missouri-Kansas City (The Kansas City Star, May 18). Union
leaders were criticized for engaging in party politics on a bipartisan
issue, and some outlets reported that the US, in fact, has ’nothing to
lose by granting permanent normal trade status with China’ (The Boston
Globe, May 18).
The media mirrored the House and Senate committees by expressing
overwhelming support for the legislation. Highlighting this issue as one
of the most truly bipartisan to come to the floor in years, media
reports pointed to globalization as proof that the US cannot afford to
take an isolationist stance against China.
Evaluation and analysis by CARMA. Media Watch can be found at