WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Bob Smith (R-OR), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, voted today to support continued Most Favored Nation (MFN) trade treatment for China, citing the importance of China trade to America's farmers and ranchers in light of a new Congressional Research Service (CRS) report concluding American agriculture would lose billions in the absence of China MFN.
"The Chinese market is vital to American farmers and ranchers. Since 1994, China has ranked among the top ten importers of U.S. farm products. Just today, we have a new report showing that farmers stand to lose more than $1 billion a year without China MFN. For me, supporting China MFN is a vote to support the best interests of American farmers and ranchers," Smith said.
"We shouldn't punish America's farmers and ranchers for the wrongdoing of the Chinese government. It's not fair to Americans, and it won't work. China has a long way to go, but we don't help the Chinese people or ourselves by cutting off trade relations with them. The growth of small business in China has only helped to foster human rights there," Smith said.
This afternoon, the House of Representatives rejected - by a vote of 173 to 259 - a resolution (H.J. Res. 79) disapproving of MFN status for China. The vote followed an Agriculture Committee China MFN briefing at which the Committee met with representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), and the American Farm Bureau Federation, all of whom continued support for China's MFN status, given the importance of China trade to American agriculture.
At the briefing, Rep. Bill Barrett (R-NE), Chairman of the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities, released a new CRS report concluding that America's farmers and ranchers stand to lose $1 billion in 1997, $1.8 billion in 1998, and $1.7 billion in 1999 if Congress were to deny MFN for China. Rep. Barrett had recently asked the CRS to estimate the impact of an MFN denial on America's farmers and ranchers.
"The hard numbers show if MFN is denied and China chooses to retaliate, U.S. agriculture will suffer the blows," Barrett said. "China is a leading market for our agriculture products, and while I strongly object to their human rights violations, we'd only be punishing ourselves if we closed these markets."
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District - which covers most of eastern, central, and southern Oregon - in the U.S. House of Representatives. Barrett represents Nebraska's Third Congressional District, covering the western two-thirds of the state.