Last month marked the 20 year anniversary since the Senate approved Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with the People’s Republic of China by a vote of 83-15.
President Clinton signed the bill, stating, “China will open its markets to American products from wheat to cars to consulting services, and our companies will be far more able to sell goods without moving factories or investments there.”
The decision marked a shift in global trade power and, in the 20 years since, an estimated 5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs have been lost. While the bill was an attempt to accelerate China into democracy and help boost the U.S. economy, it had completely adverse effects. Instead, the bill created China-centric supply chains and moved millions of jobs overseas.
Many experts argue that China’s current political climate can be attributed to PNTR. Had the U.S. and China not entered the agreement, China would have been forced to use their own intellectual property and ideas instead of making money off of stolen ideas and sweatshop labor. Thus, instead of accelerating China into democracy, PNTR actually pushed the country deeper into communism by giving the government more power over its people.
As the pandemic has shown, U.S. manufacturers and companies are too heavily dependent on China for essential parts of their supply chains. In the last few months, several lawmakers have introduced bills that would essentially move U.S. supply chains out of China. One in particular bill was introduced by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK). The bill, called the China Trade Relations Act, is an attempt to revoke China’s most favored nation status.
“Twenty years ago this week, the Senate gave a gift to the Chinese Communist Party by granting it permanent most-favored-nation status. That disastrous decision made the Party richer, but cost millions of American jobs. It’s time to protect American workers and take back our leverage over Beijing by withdrawing China’s permanent trade status,” said Cotton.
Although granting China PNTR was a harmless concept, it has given China too much power over the U.S. economy. Although we can’t rewrite history, we can still change our future for the better.