Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - A weekly Column

May 29, 2000

China Bill Is Not Free Trade
New Government Programs Approved By House

This week changes to the bill on trade relations with China meant that I had to vote against the legislation. I have consistently voted for normal trade relations with China, but here we have a situation where the House leadership gave in to the liberal Democrat demand for more government. I could not support that.
Also, consider the process in which these changes were made. For months we have been talking about PNTR, and I said I would support normal trade relations. The first version of the bill was put forward by the sub-committee chaired by my good friend Phil Crane, a strong advocate of free markets and free trade. After seeing HR 4444, I was able to again voice strong support for PNTR. However, we wound up in a last minute situation where the President was unable to convince his own party to support him. A backroom deal was cut aimed at winning votes from liberal Democrats. I will not support this method of operation.
At the beginning of the week the PNTR bill was clean, totaling three pages in length. By the time we voted on the issue, the bill had grown to sixty-six pages. This simply illustrates the problem.
The people who elected us have criticized this Congress. Time and again I have heard it said that we are not doing the job we have been elected to do. We have given in to President Clinton and the liberal minority in the House. Enough is enough. These last minute changes left us a PNTR bill that created a new government commission and put taxpayers on the line for millions in so-called "technical aid" to Communist China. Apparently the administration believed left-wing members of Congress could be convinced to vote for freer trade and freer markets just so long as we give more foreign aid to our Communist Chinese adversaries.
Managed trade features of the legislation also disappointed me. It is tiresome to hear over and over about free trade from the very people who are trying to cut off free trade. For example, this last minute language included so called anti-surge protections. How in the world can any serious person suggest this is free trade? The changes made to appease the liberals made this bill the very opposite of what it had been purported to be. As so often happens with large bills in Washington, PNTR became a vehicle for big government, managed trade, foreign aid giveaways and the creation of new government commissions. I could have supported a clean bill that simply meant lower tariffs, but this bill, and the means by which these changes were brought about, cried out for rejection of the legislation and the entire process.
Another example that shows what happened to the contents of this so called free trade bill is seen in the provision putting American taxpayers on the hook for nearly $100 million dollars in new spending for radio broadcasts aimed not just at China but other Asian countries. So much for our commitment not to spend Social Security surpluses on other government programs.
In the days and weeks ahead we will consider HJR 90. This is legislation that I introduced to remove the United States from the World Trade Organization, or WTO. Just as this PNTR bill ended up as a vehicle for foreign aid giveaways and managed trade, the WTO is an egregious attack on U.S. sovereignty and a colossal attempt at managed trade, all pursued in the name of free trade.
Free trade is about free markets, which means limiting government interference in the marketplace. We face high hurdles for the philosophy of less government in the foreseeable future because the Congressional trade debate is now limited to the voices of outright protectionists and those who, in the name of free trade, promote a regime of managed trade which threatens the sovereignty upon which our fundamental liberties will always depend.