Cotton: U.S. Should Eliminate China's 'Most Favored Nation' Trade Status

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) / Getty Images
September 14, 2020

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) on Monday said he will introduce a bill that would eliminate China's permanent "most favored nation" trade status.

In 2000, the United States granted China permanent most-favored-nation status—a designation that normalized trade relations between Washington and Beijing and eliminated a series of trade barriers between the two countries. On Monday, Cotton took aim at Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who as a senator voted to include China in the World Trade Organization and give Beijing most-favored-nation trade status.

"This week is the 20th anniversary of Joe Biden voting to give permanent most-favored-nation status to China," Cotton told Fox & Friends. "Over the last 20 years, that decision supercharged the loss of American manufacturing jobs."

Biden defended both decisions as recently as last week when CNN's Jake Tapper asked the presidential nominee if he was previously naive on China policy.

"No," Biden said. "In the context of that, we want China to grow, we don't want to have a war with China. ... It's in our interest that China be stable."

Cotton warned on Monday that "Joe Biden will continue to send our jobs to China if he's the president." The senator's new legislation will signal a tougher stance from Washington on Beijing to allies and China-accommodating Democrats alike, a senior aide in Cotton's office told the Washington Free Beacon.

"We should not thoughtlessly continue to grant extraordinary privileges to a country whose behavior is indefensible," the aide said. "This sends another strong signal to our allies in the region that Congress stands with them on Chinese aggression, that it won't be tolerated."

Cotton also said the ability to revoke China's favored trade status could be used to deter Beijing's belligerent behavior in critical regional issues, including Hong Kong and the South China Sea. One expert told the Free Beacon that Cotton's proposed policy would be a welcome addition to Washington's increasingly hard line on China.

"Senator Cotton identifies a major problem, which is China's bad conduct in international trade," Dean Cheng, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told the Free Beacon. "The United States should absolutely pursue measures via the WTO, and separate measures in coordination with our friends and allies, to make clear to China that its economic activities must abide by the international norms to which it has already agreed. Whether it is withholding the export of personal protective equipment, cyber theft of intellectual property, or subsidized exports of various goods, China must be held accountable."

Published under: China , Tom Cotton , Trade