Granting PNTR (permanent normal trade relations) is not a quick fix for China's serious human rights problems, Human Rights Watch said today following the vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to end the annual review of China's trade status. Sustained pressure, from the U.S. and other key trading partners, is needed to push Beijing to comply with its international human rights obligations.
The bill passed today by the House sets up a bipartisan, standing commission to monitor human rights and worker rights in China. Human Rights Watch urged the U.S. Senate to strengthen this proposal by requiring an annual debate and vote by both the House and Senate on recommendations by the commission for U.S. policy initiatives, including the use of diplomatic and economic tools. The Senate should also require the commission to base some of its staff in Beijing and Lhasa, Tibet, to enhance its monitoring capacity.
"Without these steps to increase the effectiveness of the commission, there's a risk that its impact on U.S. China policy will be minimal," said Mike Jendrzejczyk, Washington Director of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division.
The organization also urged the Senate to adopt a "code of conduct" with human rights principles for U.S. companies, and their subcontractors, operating in China. Passage of PNTR and China's entry into the World Trade Organization will increase the U.S. corporate presence in China. American companies should protect the rights of workers, promote the rule of law and growth of civil society. Legislation should include a requirement that companies register with the State Department their intention to abide by the code, and report annually on its implementation. This report will also be useful for consumers.
"Companies say they are ‘sowing the seeds of democracy' in China. This is one way to take seriously their commitment to human rights," Jendrzejczyk added.