Byline: Joyce Barrett

WASHINGTON — Sen. Jesse Helms (R., N.C.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has charged in a letter to the administration that China’s illicit textile transshipments to the U.S. “raise serious questions” about its potential membership in the World Trade Organization.
In his letter, sent this week to Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Helms warned the administration to consult with Congress before backing China’s WTO membership.
“If China cannot abide by a mere bilateral agreement on textiles, how can the U.S. rely upon China’s abiding by the multilateral rules of the WTO?” Helms asked in his letter.
“China has repeatedly circumvented textile export quotas by illegally transshipping annually $2 billion to $4 billion in textiles, which resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of American jobs….The United States must send an unmistakable message that the U.S. will continue to enforce all existing trade agreements.”
Helms went on to tell the administration that consultations with Congress on China’s accession could avoid an “impasse with Congress.”
Congress currently has no say in WTO membership, yet House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt (D., Mo.) is expected to bring back a proposal in the next Congressional session that would give Congress the authority to review China’s accession.
Also, the U.S. is seeking to renegotiate its textile bilateral agreement with China, which expires at the end of this year.
Last week, in response to $19 million in penalties levied against China in September because of textile transshipments, China threatened to ban some U.S. imports, including some textile products. Details of the proposed China import ban have yet to be released, but they are to take effect Dec. 10.
Helms urged the Clinton administration to “stand firm in response to China’s unwarranted threat to ban American imports.”
Helms went on to ask Christopher to support U.S. textile negotiators during the upcoming negotiations.