Ford, Carter, Bush and Greenspan Support PNTR for China

By Bob Melvin | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

( - In a united stand, three former presidents Monday joined chief economist Alan Greenspan in supporting President Clinton in giving Congress a strong push to grant China permanent normal trade relations status.

News services reported that former presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George Bush said, "In economic terms, the case is clear,'' in an open letter formulated and cleared by the White House.

The three former presidents said the agreement to bring China into the World Trade Organization is the product of more than 13 years of negotiations by four administrations, according to the National Journal's Congress Daily, and that "it builds upon a series of market-opening initiatives pursued by every president since the Second World War."

Presidents Ford and Carter plan to be at the White House on Tuesday with former secretaries of state and national security advisers to rally support for the legislation.

White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart said, "The endorsement of three former presidents should have a significant impact on members who are trying to make up their mind."

Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan also outlined his support for PNTR in a letter on Friday to House Banking Chairman Jim Leach (R-IA), who had requested Greenspan's views on the issue.

Greenspan wrote that adding China to the global marketplace "will raise standards of living in China and its trading partners" and American firms would gain economically from the expanded markets. He added that PNTR would lead to "a more general spread of rights to individuals."

However, three Chinese dissidents, Wei Jingsheng, Hongda Harry Wu and Wang Xizhe, who have spent a total of 55 years as political prisoners in China, separately wrote to House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee ranking member Sander Levin (D-MI) last week opposing his parallel legislation to monitor human rights in China.

The dissidents said the idea of passing PNTR and then monitoring human rights conditions is inadequate. Xizhe wrote, "The conditioning and the granting of PNTR must proceed simultaneously for it to have any effect."

Additionally, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) said Sunday on ABC's This Week that if the House approves China PNTR, now scheduled for consideration the week of May 22nd, the Senate has "more than enough votes to pass it." He added, "I'm increasingly encouraged by the kind of vote that I think we expect in the House."