Trade With China Remains Key `Opportunity' for US

AT a Monitor breakfast yesterday, United States Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown stressed that with the renewal of most-favored-nation status for China, ``engagement is a better way to deal with human rights.''

Mr. Brown, who has logged ``daily time'' with the American business community on the China trade issue, says he is acutely aware of ``what would be the impact of our [commercial] withdrawal [from the Chinese market].''

Would French, German, and other international competitors restrict their dealings with China on the basis of their opposition to Beijing's human rights record? ``The record indicates that they would not,'' Brown says. ``The record indicates that we're better corporate citizens.''

With a plan to spend $600 billion through the year 2000, China presents a tremendous opportunity for US investment and exports over the long-term. China is one of the 10 ``emerging market'' countries targeted by the US Commerce Department, along with India, South Korea, Indonesia, Turkey, South Africa, Poland, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. Within five years the US will be exporting more to these markets than to either Europe or Japan, Brown says.

Despite public opinion polls to the contrary, Brown says the administration should be applauded for sound economic policies. ``Right at the beginning of his administration, President Clinton turned a lot of talk about deficit reduction into action. We're seeing the fruits of that now.'' The sustainable economic growth without inflation, a rise in both consumer and business confidence, and increased investment in plant and equipment are perceptible, but ``it takes a while for a full-fledged recovery to be felt all over America,'' he says.

The commerce secretary credits the White House with working out a deficit-reduction deal with Congress that has forced the federal government into fiscal responsibility, won the confidence of financial markets, and drove interest rates down. The result, Brown says, is ``we have turned a jobless recovery into a job-creating recovery.'' Rising interest rates orchestrated by the inflation-wary Federal Reserve Board have caused ``some dampening'' in US economic activity, Brown says, ``but we are still on track.''

Perturbed by congressional conflict-of-interest allegations concerning his alleged holdings in telecommunications companies, Brown says he has ``encouraged an expedited disclosure'' of his financial portfolio.

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