U.S. State Department Geographic Bureaus: East Asia and Pacific Bureau

95/06/02 Briefing: W. Lord on MFN Trade Status for China


Washington, D.C.
June 2, 1995

MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon. Welcome back to another briefing at the State Department. We have another special guest appearance, second time this week -- Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Winston Lord -- and he's here to brief you on the White House announcement on China and MFN. He is under very tight time constraints, so I'm going to turn it over to him right away. He'll make some remarks and take your questions, but I'm going to have to ask you to please limit your questions to this particular subject, because he doesn't have a lot of time. Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Thank you, Christine. Why don't we give you maximum time for questions, as long as they're focused on this topic, by my not making an opening statement, which will probably shock you. (Laughter) You've got the statement, I assume, by the White House Press Spokesman.

Q No.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Oh, you don't. Then I think I better read it then. I just assumed you had that. Let me read it at New York speed, then, and we'll save us much time. (Laughter)

It's a June 2 statement by the Press Secretary of the White House. I assume most of you want me to read this now. It isn't too long, but obviously you've got to have it.

"The President announced today that he has renewed Most-Favored- Nation trade status for China this year. Last year, the President delinked China's MFN trade status from overall human rights considerations. He did so because he concluded that broad engagement with China, including on human rights issues, offers the best prospect for progress in all areas of concern to us.

"Under the criteria set forth in the Trade Act of l974, as amended, and in particular, the Jackson-Vanik amendment concerning freedom of emigration, the sole statutory requirement for MFN renewal is a Presidential determination that renewal will substantially promote freedom of emigration in China. The President will today transmit to Congress a determination to this effect. China continues to allow free emigration and open travel overseas, including travel for students.

"Although we are renewing MFN, we find China's record on human rights unacceptable. China continues to deny its citizens freedom of speech, association, and religion and fails to guarantee humane treatment of prisoners. Extrajudicial arrest and detention remain common practices.

"We maintain a vigorous approach to human rights issues in China, including raising these issues directly with the Chinese government, pressing for attention to China's human rights practices in multilateral institutions, expanding international broadcasting, working with American non-government organizations, and developing voluntary business principles for use by the private sector. This mix of policies is aimed at keeping the spotlight on their deficiencies and seeking progress in both the short and the long term.

"We believe that renewal of MFN will promote a range of U.S. interests in China, including human rights. We remain convinced that the broadest possible engagement with China offers the best opportunity over the long term to ensure that China abides by internationally- accepted norms. MFN status for China will enable us to continue to engage China in the comprehensive and constructive manner necessary to move forward on the full range of bilateral, regional and global issues."

So that's the statement. You'll get it later. If you immediately want to go over a couple of sentences you didn't quite get, I'll be happy to do that, but why don't we go right to your questions?

Q Yes. Ambassador Lord, doesn't this -- coming at this particular time with the President Lee matter and the withdrawal of the Chinese from engagements with us -- doesn't that give a signal that, you know, why isn't there something mentioned in here that sanctions the Chinese, the recent Chinese behavior? Doesn't it give them a signal that they can do this and just kind of walk over us?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: The Chinese can do what, precisely?

Q That they can withdraw from the appointments that they've had; they can continue their negotiations with Pakistan on missiles, et cetera --


Q -- the things that they've done.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Obviously, it doesn't in any way condone the Chinese human rights situation. We've termed that unacceptable.

As you know, every year this issue comes up on June 3rd, and, therefore, the timing of it is determined by that. And it is coincidental that the Lee visit issue has now surfaced close to the timing on the MFN decision. It's a coincidence in that sense.

The President, on its own merits, has decided to renew MFN and has determined that the emigration requirements of Jackson-Vanik have been met. That is why he confines his statement to that subject as set forth.

Obviously, we are disappointed, as I said in a briefing earlier this week, that China has cancelled some of these dialogues and visits. We hope those will be resumed shortly.

Q Given China's backsliding in the area of human rights, on Tibet, on dissidents, on prison visits -- across the board all in categories you all had wanted, in which you wanted them to improve -- in retrospect, do you think that President Clinton's decision to delink trade rights with improvement in China's human rights was a wise one?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: You'll not be surprised to hear me to say, "Yes, it was a wise one." (Laughter)

Q You can't say why because you haven't got the "why."

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Yes, I can say why. Absolutely.

First of all, we've said the human rights situation is unacceptable; and I would not quarrel with the premise of your question in terms of the general trend in the areas you cite.

Let me for a moment segue though -- and I think this is an important point -- that there are trends in China that promise a brighter day for human rights that are developing. For example, the development of legal reform and the rule of law, which the Chinese themselves are encouraging and which we are giving increased attention to -- this will have an impact over time on political freedom, as well as on economic activity.

Secondly, the spontaneous movements of some religious groups that are springing up, also the petition process that we've seen -- these are all straws in the wind, it seems to us.

So I think we should keep that in mind, even as we keep in mind the backsliding and the disappointments, among those of which you cited.

Now, it is our view that if we still had linkage with MFN it would not have changed anything with respect to human rights this past year and that the rest of our relationship would probably have suffered. So we're not here to say that the delinking of MFN has produced progress in human rights. We are disappointed it hasn't. The Chinese indicated last spring that it would make for a better atmosphere.

But we are saying, and we're firmly convinced, that it was the right decision for our overall relationship -- and for the longer term as well -- and that if we still had linkage we would not be any better off on human rights.

What I'm saying is the Chinese decisions on these various matters have been taken for other reasons than our linkage -- having to do, among other things, with their definition of "stability" and other issues like that.

Q Do you think this decision will have any impact on China as regards to their firm opposition to the Taiwan visit and their threat of, you know, reprisals? And, second of all, since those few meetings in the MTCR talks were basically cancelled or suspended or whatever, have there been any other indications from the Chinese of further reprisals or any indications that that's the end of it?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Well, we don't know where they are in the process. We would like to think they've done what they plan to do and that they would reverse what they have done. But the rhetoric continues to be quite strong. There's no question about it.

This decision is unrelated, as I indicated earlier, to the Lee visit issue. And I've said at some length -- and I'll repeat here again -- the Lee visit does not in any way change our policy toward China or toward Taiwan, and it gets inflated only by Beijing's unwarranted complaints. They are ascribing significance to it, which they don't like and which isn't there. So it's in their self-interest to treat it as it is: a private, unofficial visit that has no diplomatic implications. And we have been carrying out the preparations for that visit on that principle -- which, again, should make this clear to the Chinese.

So I would assume they would welcome this decision on MFN. We're not doing it to compensate for the Lee visit; we're doing it on its own merits. That is why the President put out these remarks today, and that is why he confined his statement to this issue.

Now, did I cover all your questions?

Q You said, everybody says that there is no link any more between MFN and human rights. But is there any link between MFN and the abuses by China of various trade principles, third-country counterfeit labels coming into the country, prison labor, child labor, other things? Are we prepared to take any retribution in terms of MFN or trade for those violations?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: The President's policy, as reiterated today, is to treat MFN strictly in the Jackson-Vanik context. And in this case the only prerequisite for renewal and waiver of Jackson-Vanik is performance on emigration and the fact that renewing MFN, we believe, will promote freedom of emigration. So we will not be linking it to other issues.

Some of the issues you mentioned are being treated in other ways. Prison labor we treat through our Memorandum of Understanding and visits to prisons and denial of imports, etc. If there are other problems like textile labeling, for example, it's treated in the textile context, so it will not be treated in the MFN context.

Q Did they ever allow the prison visits that they promised?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: They have generally fulfilled that Memorandum of Understanding. We can get you specific figures, but there have been several visits this past year. There have been many investigations. We do have a disagreement in one area where we think certain reform through labor or re-education camps -- I may not be getting the precise terms here -- there's category we think falls under this heading and they don't, and we're still negotiating on that.

But in terms of basically making investigations and allowing visits, they have been implementing that agreement.

Q Can I just follow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: I'll come to you next. I'm sorry.

Q A question on immigration issue. Weren't there about six ships that were turned back from China when trying to leave, and are there any plans in the U.S. to expand the number of Chinese allowed into the country?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: The ship issue is a matter of asylum and refugees and so on, so that's a different kind of matter than freedom of emigration. Most of those ships involve people fleeing China for economic reasons and trying to come in here, and they left in a way that was illegal and they try to get in a way that's illegal, and we've cooperated with the Chinese, and they have been forthcoming on returning them.

The innocents in those ships have received no mistreatment that we're aware of. The only ones who have been punished are the people and pirates that have taken advantage of these people, trying to bring in cheap labor. So that's a separate issue.

In terms of numbers of Chinese, the limits actually on Chinese immigration have been imposed by our numerical limits on how many we can take a year and other countries' limits on how many they can take a year.

So on the whole in this area we believe the Chinese have performed well. Even last year there were a few cases of some passports that were blocked, related to dissidents or dissidents' families. That may have happened again this past year, but we have no concrete evidence of that. So the record at least was as good as it was last year, and the numbers are not going up that I'm familiar with. I don't think there's any plan to increase the numbers. But the number limitation in the past year has been our limitations, not China's limitations on emigration. There have been people applying for visas in greater numbers than we're able to issue them.

Q It sounds like you were saying in answer to the earlier question, in effect, as long as they comply with the Jackson-Vanik immigration, they're going to get -- the Clinton Administration will renew MFN every year. Is that correct? That's the only --


Q Has there been any determination about maintaining the symbolic sanctions that were issued last year on guns and ammunition and the loan guarantees to American corporations? Has there been any decision about maintaining those or changing those?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: There's been no change in the posture that we announced last spring.

Q Is there one to be expected or not?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: I wouldn't expect any in the near future, no. But these things are always under review.

Q Mr. Ambassador, China has said that the Jackson-Vanik provision would be incompatible with WTO, World Trade Organization, rules if they're to become a member of the WTO. Can you say what the Administration is thinking about doing, about how to get around this obstacle, should they meet our other commercial trade requirements as we've requested? Is there any thought of waiving Jackson-Vanik?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Again, you may want to go to USTR, the lawyers, to get this precisely, but it's our position -- and the Chinese are aware of this -- that even if they get into WTO -- which we support if they make a significant offer, we genuinely would like them in the WTO -- this would not remove the Jackson-Vanik. And it's my understanding that under the WTO -- but you'd have to check with the lawyers -- that's it's perfectly legal underneath that not to extend the bilateral benefits even as they get in.

But, if you'd like, we can be sure to get you a more precise answer. I know what our position is, and I don't think there's any legal problem. It's always been legal under the GATT. I don't think WTO has changed that. But let's be sure. I'll have my staff -- John, if you would work with Christine -- and we'll get your name and get back to you if there's any different answer on that.

Q Mr. Ambassador, the Chinese are reported to be drawing up a long list of further retaliatory measures, including a possible downgrading or even cutoff of diplomatic relations.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: You've got better sources than I have. (Laughter) Could you share your sources with me? (Laughter)

Q Sure. A Hong Kong newspaper, quoting Beijing sources, has reported that they're seriously considering these measures. Has this been a factor in the decision for the renewal of the MFN?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Absolutely not. I've already made clear there's no linkage between this. Absolutely no linkage. This is done on the merits of what the President thinks is right with respect to the MFN issue. It's totally unrelated to what's happened or what might happen.

I'd like to get someone who hasn't had a question yet.

Q Could you tell me when the next scheduled meetings are between U.S. and Chinese officials -- when there could be another cancellation, were this to happen again?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: I don't want to make any suggestions. (Laughter) I won't answer it in that way. We do have some ongoing meetings, including in the economic area, that are presently scheduled, but I'd rather not get into a checklist. It's not as if all communications have been cut off. So the Chinese have so far been picking and choosing.

But let's hope that all this can be resumed, because the areas that have been cut off are in the Chinese interest as well as our own.

Q Are they still jamming Voice of America?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: The answer is yes, but not very effectively and selectively. I don't know how much of that's lack of technical ability, lack of finances, or some even lack of political will. So Voice of America is getting a lot into China, but in Chinese it is still jammed in certain areas. But it's often a matter of making it difficult, the reception isn't good, or you've got to listen at strange hours of the day rather than total cutoff sometimes. So, yes, from our standpoint, this issue is still not resolved, but it doesn't mean Voice of America isn't getting in quite a bit.

Q Could you tell me something about what U.S. reaction might be if the Chinese take another retaliation measure?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: First of all, I'd like to try to confine this briefing, if we can, primarily to the China MFN issue. But, even if I weren't, I would answer that I don't want to get into hypotheticals, particularly unhappy hypotheticals. So let us hope that China will see it's in its interests, as we believe strongly it is, to continue a constructive relationship with us and keep this comprehensive engagement going and indeed resume some of the dialogues that we hope are temporarily suspended.

Q Are you planning on relaxing any post-Tiananmen sanctions against China, and also what's your reaction to Harry Wu's Laogai Foundation accusation today that China is still exporting the forced- labor-made graphite to the States, and he's saying that MOU is totally deceiving the U.S. Congress and U.S. people.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: On the first question, there are no plans to relax any sanctions, as I indicated earlier. I mean, we always keep these things under review, but I know of no plans to relax any at this point.

I have not heard of this latest report by Harry Wu. We will, of course, take it seriously, as we do any report on this subject, including from him, and he's shown great courage in the past. But we have to be very careful to be precise on our information, so we'll have to look into it. I do not, of course, agree with the generic statement. We think the MOU is an effective instrument. Of course, it's difficult in such a huge country and such varied trade to be 100 percent sure everything's working perfectly.

But, as I've indicated before, the Chinese are generally cooperative in this area, and we think we've made a real effort and will continue to do so to stop the importation of these kinds of goods.

Q The White House announced this issue two days before sixth anniversary of Tiananmen massacre, and there are more and more dissidents still in prison in China. How are you going to explain to the American people, the whole world, that the whole human rights policy is still working?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: We're not saying that we've had any progress. And I've said that, as the statement says, we find China's record on human rights unacceptable. In terms of the timing, again it's a historical coincidence, and this has been true now for five or six years. It so happened the date for renewal is the same date as the date of the Tiananmen massacre. It's a rather ironic juxtaposition in some ways.

But, frankly, last year we were very credible. There had been some progress, but there were some disappointments last year when the President made his decision. I want to stress, as the statement does, that human rights is still an extremely important part of our agenda. We are pursuing it in other ways, as suggested in this statement. We will continue to pursue it.

So we are very concerned about the roundup of dissidents. The pattern this past year has been unacceptable, and the last few weeks has been particularly discouraging on this front. So we will continue to pursue these issues in the ways that have been outlined in the statement. And that's about all I can say on that.

MS. SHELLY: Last question.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: We've got just two. If that's agreeable, I'll take them both since it's the last two.

Q I'll be as brief as I can with this one. Just a thought of mine. Have you, from your talks with the Chinese, from other sources, ever had the perception that the Chinese leadership believes that the Lee matter, entry into the U.S., was the first step in a change of policy on the part of this Administration insofar as Taiwan is concerned? Do they think there's more recognition of Taiwan coming down the road?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: Some of them may be worried, and that may be one reason for the strong rhetoric we've gotten. I can't put myself in their minds. They've warned that this could be, or they're worried about it could be. They haven't claimed that it is, as far as I know. But that's one of their concerns.

I don't know how many times I can say it, and people a lot higher level than I can say it privately and publicly: There is no change in terms of the unofficial relations with Taiwan, and there will be no change in terms of that. This has served several administrations of both political parties. It has not been changed. It will continue.

Q Mr. Secretary, despite today's decision, are you concerned that the U.S.-China relations will be moving from comprehensive engagement to comprehensive confrontation?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LORD: It takes two to have comprehensive engagement, like it does to dance. So we would like to continue our comprehensive engagement, and that's why we regret these Chinese cancellations. I'd like to think they will be renewed.

No, I hope not, I don't think we'll have comprehensive confrontation. It's always going to be, as I said in another context, a sweet and sour relationship. And that is the reason for comprehensive engagement; it's to have as many positive areas as you can through a variety of working level and high-level visits and negotiations so that you can compensate for those areas where you're going to run into inevitable difficulties when two great countries have different perspectives.

So we think it's all the more important to maintain comprehensive engagement at a time of difficulty. Therefore we would hope the Chinese would resume these dialogues and join us in trying to go forward with a constructive policy and a constructive relationship as possible, even as we manage our inevitable differences.

MS. SHELLY: Thank you very much.



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