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By Martin Kupferberg, (Reprinted from NY Post, May 18,2000)

It often seems as if politicians in Washington devote their time to an endless series of petty feuds. But despite the media’s fascination with partisan bickering, congressional decisions have a very real impact on working families.

Consider the upcoming vote on whether to grant Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) to China. If Congress approves PNTR, China’s trade barriers will begin to tumble, and the economic benefits here at home will be wide and deep.

PNTR will dramatically lower the cost of doing business in China. Industrial tariffs on U.S.-made goods will drop by a whopping 60 percent. Agricultural tariffs will be halved. Chinese tariffs on high-tech goods will be eliminated by 2005. And U.S. vendors will at last be allowed to establish direct-distribution operations, which means no more dealings with government-controlled middlemen.

Granting PNTR to China doesn’t change U.S. tariffs at all. Our economy, on the other hand, will be enhanced. According to one estimate, in just a few years the amount of American goods and services sold in China will jump by $21 billion annually if PNTR is ratified.

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So in contrast to the rhetoric of free-trade foes, PNTR for China is not about shipping jobs abroad. It’s about creating more jobs at home.

That’s why business owners from all sectors of our economy have come together to support granting China PNTR. We are farmers, chemical manufacturers, automakers, and Silicon Valley CEOs, to name just a few—and we don’t always share the same point of view. But on this we are united: PNTR for China is a great deal for American workers.

It’s certainly a great deal for workers at my company, Kepco, Inc. We design and manufacture direct-current power supplies and associated electronic equipment. It’s taken us years to cultivate a customer base in China. The tax and regulatory structures there are burdensome, to say nothing of the distance and language barriers. These challenges have been daunting, but Kepco’s sales in China are poised to take off. The Chinese want what we make, and we’re eager to sell to a nation of 1.3 billion people.

If China’s trade barriers are lowered through PNTR, that means scores of new jobs at our facility in Queens. And these yet-to-be created openings aren’t "McJobs." They’re skilled and semi-skilled positions that provide a solid standard of living for working families. The story is the same for thousands of other U.S. companies that have planted flags in China’s market.

Yet increasing our trade with China will benefit more than America’s bottom line. Stronger economic ties will likely make relations between our two great nations more amicable. Greater trade with China means that in the future, our economic clout can help push its leaders toward permanent peace. And PNTR strengths the safeguards protecting our sensitive military technology.

Some critics of free trade believe that due to its human-rights abuses, China’s economy should be shunned, not opened. I too am concerned about the well-being of the Chinese people. However, we can’t improve their human rights by isolating their economy.

As Taiwan President Lee Teng-Hui observed, "Vigorous economic development leads to independent thinking. … [With economic development] the model of [Taiwan’s] quiet revolution will eventually take hold in China."

China’s own freedom activists agree. Last month Chinese investigative journalist and environmentalist Dai Qing wrote: "I believe that permanent normal trade status, with its implication of openness and fairness, is among the most powerful means of promoting freedom in China."

Free trade can’t solve all our planet’s troubles. But it can play a big role in bringing nations’ economies—and thus, their citizens—closer. If Congress grants China PNTR, U.S. firms will have easier access to the world’s largest marketplace. And we’ll be competing on a level playing field with foreign firms, who also recognize the buying power of China’s consumers and industrial concerns.

Under PNTR, we get far fewer barriers to China’s booming economy, which means more quality jobs for Americans. In return, China gets more of our goods and services, which means a better quality of life for the Chinese.

The PNTR vote gives our elected officials in Washington an opportunity to improve the lives of their constituents and build a prosperous future for countless people half the world away. Congress should approve PNTR.

Marty Kupferberg is president of Kepco, Inc a Queens, New York manufacturer.

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