The Guardian November 24, 1999


Editorial:
Agreement clears way for China to WTO

A landmark trade deal between China and the United States is likely to 
lead to the People's Republic of China (PRC) joining the World Trade 
Organisation. Agreements have yet to be made with the European Union, major 
Latin American countries and other countries. It remains to be seen whether 
the US Congress will ratify the agreement that has been hammered out during 
13 years of tortuous negotiations. There is a strong anti-China lobby among 
both Democrats and Republicans even though the admission of China to the 
WTO will increase trade between the two countries.

The agreement has been widely welcomed and there will be  pressure from 
those commercial interests who hope to gain from increased access to the 
huge China market, on Congress to ratify the agreement.

Australian media reports dwell almost exclusively on the trade gains that 
Australian and other Western exporters hope to make, overlooking the fact 
that trade agreements are a two-way affair. But Peter Hartcher writing in 
the Australian Financial Review (AFR) (16/11/99) points out 
that the US International Trade Commission expects US exports to China to 
grow by seven per cent while Chinese exports to the US would grow by 10 per 
cent.

Revealing another agenda, the media also hopes that the agreement will help 
those who have been working hard to push China off its socialist path and 
return to the capitalist model.

For a long time the trade and international policies of the PRC have 
followed the course of "opening to the outside world", recognising that no 
country and, particularly a large trading country, can succeed without 
substantial trade relations with every other country.

China has also approached trade relations on the basis of "mutual benefit" 
rather than the capitalist approach of trade based on a one-sided benefit.

Throughout the negotiations, China has insisted that it be treated as a 
"developing country" and not on the same basis as that between two 
developed industrial countries. "Developing country" status carries some 
benefits. Although the fine detail is not yet known it can be assumed that 
the US has accepted this demand of China.

China's President and Communist Party leader, Jiang Zemin has described the 
agreement as a "win-win" agreement which would suggest that the principle 
of "mutual benefit" has also been preserved.

Another factor which has dragged the United States to an agreement, (having 
blocked China's admission to the WTO for 13 years), is the continuing rapid 
growth of China's economy despite the recent Asian currency meltdown. 
Although the Australian media likes to talk about an economic crisis in 
China, the fact is that its economy has been growing at an average rate of 
around 8-9 per cent per year for the last 20 years. This is a rate not 
equalled by any other country in the world.

Does this agreement represent any departure from socialism by the Chinese 
leadership?

Speaking to a gathering of the Chief Executive Officers of the 500 largest 
transnational corporations held recently in Shanghai, Jiang Zemin said that 
"after arduous and valiant struggle [the Chinese people] finally ended 
their semi-colonial and semi-feudal history, won independence for the 
nation and freedom for the people, and founded the People's Republic of 
China under the leadership of the Communist Party of China ... Our goal is 
to realise modernisation by the middle of the coming century, to make our 
country a wealthy, strong, democratic and civilised modern socialist 
country and to achieve the great revival of the Chinese nation ... The 
Communist Party of China led the people in revolution, construction and 
reform for the very purpose of realising freedom, democracy and human 
rights for all the people of China."

This objective will not be achieved by isolation or even endless 
confrontation but by mutually beneficial trade, respect for independence 
and the right of all people to decide on whatever political and economic 
system they choose, non-interference and equality. These are socialist 
principles and their full implementation by all governments would transform 
the prospects facing the people of all countries.

Peter Hartcher in the AFR article referred to above, concludes by 
writing that the agreement "might  just possibly  even help prevent war 
between the existing superpower and the potential new one."
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