by Bethany Blankley
Several Republican senators filed a bill on Friday to end China’s Permanent Normal Trade Status (PNTR), citing concerns over American job losses and human rights abuses overseas.
The China Trade Relations Act, which would strip China of its PNTR, was filed by U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Rick Scott, R-Fla., Ted Budd, R-N.C., and J.D. Vance, R-Ohio.
If passed, according to the bill language, it would revert China’s Most Favored Nation (MFN) status to a pre-2001 designation, requiring its status to be renewed every year by the president with congressional approval. The bill would give Congress the authority to override a presidential extension of MFN status by passing a joint resolution of disapproval.
It also would expand the list of human-rights and trade abuses under the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which would disqualify China for MFN status altogether, absent a presidential waiver.
According to the bill, such abuses would make China ineligible for MFN status, absent a presidential waiver, including: using or providing for the use of slave labor; operating “vocational training and education centers” or concentration camps where people are held against their will; performing or ordering forced abortion or sterilization procedures; harvesting prisoners’ organs without their consent; hindering and preventing the free exercise of religion; intimidating or harassing Chinese nationals not living in China; and engaging in systematic economic espionage against the United States, including intellectual property theft.
“For twenty years, Communist China has held permanent most-favored-nation status, which has supercharged the loss of American manufacturing jobs. China never deserved this privilege in the first place, and China certainly does not deserve it today. It’s time to protect American jobs and hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for their forced labor camps and egregious human rights violations.”
“The CCP cares about one thing: undermining America,” Scott said. “There is no reason why the United States should be helping a communist government’s trade operation through preferential treatment and ‘most-favored-nation’ status. That is absolutely absurd when they are working against us. It is time to put American interests first, not the CCP, and reverse this antiquated law.”
Scott, who voted against the CHIPS Act, has expressed concerns about subsidizing manufacturing of semiconductors in China. He’s also called on the president to restore a top drug post to a cabinet level position to address the fentanyl crisis. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has also called on the president to restore the post and to hold China accountable for its role in the fentanyl crisis.
“The Chinese Communist Party is not America’s friend, and it is not a force for good in the world,” Budd said. “From human rights abuses to the theft of U.S. jobs and intellectual property, the CCP must be held accountable.” Sen. Vance also pointed to job losses in Ohio as a result of China being granted MFN two decades ago.
While job losses at home and human rights abuses committed overseas are important issues to address, the bill excludes perhaps one of the most egregious direct impacts of nontraditional warfare being waged against Americans every day: illicit fentanyl and an opioid crisis with direct links to China, international and national security law expert and Navy JAG attorney Jonathan Hullihan told The Center Square.
The Jackson-Vanik Amendment, or any other applicable laws, he argues, could be amended to include a requirement that China halt the manufacturing and shipment of fentanyl precursors to Mexico. He points to the findings of a 2020 Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking report whose co-chair was Cotton, which states that China is the key supplier of synthetic opioids to the U.S.
Fentanyl precursors are produced and shipped from China to Mexican ports where Mexican cartels manufacture fake prescription pills to look like real ones and lace them and other drugs with fentanyl. Mexican cartels, their operatives and gang affiliates then smuggle the illicit drugs across the US-Mexico border, fueling the opioid crisis, border agents have told The Center Square.
“Fentanyl remains the deadliest drug threat facing this country,” the DEA has warned, and now children under 14 are dying from fentanyl poisoning at a faster rate than any other age group in the U.S., according to federal data. Fentanyl poisoning remains the number one killer of American adults between the age of 18-45.
“Stripping China’s MFN is a long-overdue, a fantastic move,” Hullihan told The Center Square. “But what would be even more impactful is providing additional terms to require China to halt the manufacturing and shipment of fentanyl precursors to Mexico if China ever wants to have MFN status again. This would have a direct impact on the fentanyl crisis by cutting off the cartels’ supply. The U.S. has had a history of telling China to crack down on fentanyl distribution, but it hasn’t been effective.
“Under the Trump administration, diplomatic tools were used. Since then, the fentanyl crisis has only worsened. More people have died from fentanyl poisoning than our service members have in wars overseas over the last 20 years. Our children, family members, friends and neighbors are dying in their homes, college campuses, schools, playgrounds – in America because of poison coming from China. Stripping China of MFN and making it conditional on drying up the cartels’ fentanyl supply would save American lives.”
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Bethany Blankley is a contributor to The Center Square.
Photo “Tom Cotton” by Senator Tom Cotton. Photo “Rick Scott” by United States Senate Photographic Studio. Photo “Ted Budd” by Senator Ted Budd. Photo “J.D. Vance” by J.D. Vance. Background Photo “U.S. Capitol Building” by GPA Photo Archive.