WASHINGTON (April 13, 2000) -- The recent deterioration of China's human rights record should not be rewarded by the United States with "permanent normal trade relations," the chairman of the Bishops' International Policy Committee urged Members of Congress today.
"The full integral human development of China, most populous of the world's nations, and its economic advancement in the global economy, is a goal of great importance," said Boston Cardinal Bernard Law. "However, as long as the Chinese leadership steadfastly refuses to abide by the universal norms of human rights protections, the United States should not grant normal trade relations on a permanent basis."
Congress's consideration of granting permanent normal trade status to China, a key goal of the Clinton Administration's trade policy, breaks with the practice of the last decade when China's trading status has been reviewed annually. Opponents of making China's trading status permanent, including the U. S. Catholic Conference, argue that doing so will deny them the ability to highlight China's notorious record on human rights, religious freedom, and environmental issues. A vote on the matter is anticipated in the U.S. House of Representatives before Memorial Day.
Cardinal Law said religious freedoms and other human "are not marginal issues" and greater priority needs to be given to them "in fashioning a strong and productive relationship between our two nations." He acknowledged that trade legislation may not be the best vehicle for addressing concern about China's record, but that "absent any other comparable means to focus needed attention on these matters, a strong vote against granting permanent normal trade relations at this time will send a clear signal to the leaders of both nations, pressing them to give a much higher priority to human rights and religious freedom in the future."
In the past decade, the USCC has repeatedly argued for the need to place conditions on the annual renewal of China's "most-favored nation" trading status. Cardinal Law warned Representatives that to forgo that annual review at this time, when China's human rights record is worsening, "could be seen as an abandonment of U.S. concern for religious liberty and human rights."
Full text of Cardinal Law's letter.