Revocation of China PNTR
Repudiate China’s Status as WTO Member and Free Trade Partner
Rescind China’s permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status, rejecting WTO authority over U.S. trade policy and handing the matter back to Congress.
As a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United States is expected to extend permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) to all other WTO members, including those like China that routinely ignore their own obligations. China obstructs access to its market, ignores intellectual property rules, and coerces foreign firms, but the WTO has been unable to remedy the situation. To the contrary, the organization has sometimes ruled against the United States for defending its own interests. The WTO’s legal framework provides a useful default for American companies productively engaged in the global economy, so outright WTO withdrawal could do more harm than good. But the United States should not hesitate to reject WTO rules and standards when they are not in the national interest. In the case of China, the PNTR offered by the United States as part of that country’s ascension to the WTO have been a disaster for American workers and industry, and certainly not reciprocated by China in its own policies.
The United States should revoke China’s PNTR status and refuse to treat China as a free-trade partner, notwithstanding the WTO requirement to do so. Congress voted to suspend Russia’s PNTR status after the invasion of Ukraine, and China’s much graver long-term threat and more flagrant trade violations merit at least as strong a response. By default, all products from China would be subject to the higher tariff rates that apply to nations not granted PNTR, like Cuba. Congress would need to make regular policy determinations about how to regulate trade with China, as it did before it relinquished its authority to the WTO. By rescinding PNTR status, the United States would signal to China that it will no longer tolerate open violation of trade norms and to the global community that American trade policy will be dictated by American interests. It would also discourage American investors and corporations from doing business in China.