U.S. lawmakers have upheld U.S. membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) after debate centering largely on the U.S. trade deficit with China and other countries.
This is the second time the House has overwhelmingly defeated resolutions to withdraw the United States from the World Trade Organization.
But congressional dissatisfaction with the $162 billion trade deficit with China and the outsourcing of jobs overseas by U.S. companies was evident in emotionally-charged debate on the floor of the House.
Bernie Sanders, an independent congressman from Vermont known for his fiery criticism of globalization, the WTO and free trade agreements, asserts they have led to what he calls the erosion of the middle class in America.
"Our trade policies have failed the American worker, the American middle class, in a disastrous way and it is high time to re-think our trade policies so they begin to work for the middle class of this country and not just the CEOs of our major corporations," said Mr. Sanders.
Mr. Sanders acknowledged before the debate that the resolution, which was strongly opposed by the Bush administration, would probably not pass.
However, he and others drew satisfaction from the fact that the number of votes in favor of pulling the United States out of the WTO increased by 30 to 86 of the more than 400 members of the House, compared to 56 in the year 2000.
Congressman Benjamin Cardin, a Democrat from the state of Maryland, was among those voting for keeping the United States in the WTO, but at the same time expressing concern about it.
"It is in the U.S. interest to be in a rules-based trading system and we need to make sure we continue U.S. participation in the WTO," he noted. "[But] we also need to understand that we need to improve and make more effective the WTO, and we also need to strengthen the manner in which we review the operations of the WTO."
China's rapidly growing strength in world trade was a key part of the WTO debate, and a focus of other activity this week on Capitol Hill.
Democratic Senator Charles Schumer urged President Bush to convene a summit to address what he and others call China's unfair trade policies, including currency manipulation they say violates WTO and other agreements.
As the House was voting on the WTO resolution, congressional displeasure over trade policy with China also emerged in a hearing focusing on intellectual property protection.
Touching on issues raised during the WTO debate, Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky describes what she believes will happen if the Bush administration doesn't get tougher with Beijing.
"As our trade deficit grows and these dollars are used to purchase ever more of the debt instruments created by this administration, China becomes less and less vulnerable to retaliatory measures available to the U.S. government," she explained. "By the time either this administration wakes up or is replaced by one more in tune with economic reality, we may find ourselves with no choice but to accept the terms of trade dictated by the Chinese, because they will have the power to harm our economy with a computer stroke."
Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, Jon Dudas, who has been involved in discussions with Beijing in the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, expressed Bush administration frustration with Beijing.
"China has taken some important steps in the right direction to improve intellectual property protection. Unfortunately, however, we have not seen a significant reduction in IPR infringements throughout China, the critical test," added Mr. Dudas.
The Bush administration says it continues to work hard in the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade and elsewhere to level the playing field with China.