WASHINGTON (AP) â€” President Clinton said today it would be ``a very, very unwise and precarious move'' for Congress to deny normal trading relations for China.
Three weeks before a pivotal House vote, Clinton presented his case for normalized trade with China during a speech before a conference of the Independent Insurance Agents of America. Later, he raised the issue again in an address at the State Department before the Council of the Americas.
The president also was to meet with Martin Lee, the Hong Kong leader who has struggled for free elections and freedom of speech, and supports China's entry into the World Trade Organization.
Clinton said he sympathizes with demonstrators in Washington and Seattle who recently protested that the WTO should be more open and democratic. ``But that's not an excuse for sticking it to China after China has made good faith efforts to open its economy and to give access to the other members of the world trading community,'' Clinton said.
Separately, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger spoke at Columbia University in New York and said that rejecting normalized trade with China would have ``serious and substantial consequences for our national security.
``Rejecting (normalized trade) is a risky proposition,'' Berger said in prepared remarks. ``Rejection will set off a downward spiral that could disrupt stability in Asia, diminish the chance of dialogue across the Taiwan Strait and deflate hopes for a more constructive relationship between the U.S. and China,'' Berger said.
``Rejecting (normalized trade) would be the worst possible blow to the best possible hope we have had in more than 30 years to encourage positive change in China,'' Berger said. A copy of his speech was released in Washington.
The administration and congressional supporters of the trade proposal are showing new optimism that they will prevail in the showdown vote later this month. The administration is seeking to end the annual review of China's trade privileges as part of a deal clearing the way for Beijing to enter the World Trade Organization, which sets the rules for global trade.
``From a national security point of view, it would in my view be a very, very unwise and precarious move to say that the United States doesn't care whether they're part of the world community or not,'' the president said.
``You don't have to agree with another country on everything to say you prefer to trade with them than have an arms face-off with them and constant conflict with them,'' Clinton added. ``So it's in our national security interest, but it's necessary to keep our economy going.
``There's 1.2 billion people over there and increasingly more and more of them will be able to buy what Americans can sell,'' he said. ``And as people sell more over there, they'll have more to buy insurance with. It's very important.''