(CNS) - If the House votes as scheduled Tuesday on whether to maintain the status quo in its trade relations with China, Rep Ron Paul, a conservative Republican from Texas, will vote yes, because, he said, "I'm for free trade."
"I would trade with Cuba, and with Iran and Iraq, because I believe in the adage that if you trade with people and talk with people, you're less likely to fight with people," Paul told CNSNews.com.
Paul intends to vote against a resolution disapproving President Clinton's June 3 decision to keep China as a full trading partner. In effect, he will vote to continue to grant most favored nation trading status to the Communist-led country.
Tuesday's vote will likely be decided more on perceptions of economic advantage than on recent upsets in Sino-American relations, political analysts say.
Supporters of continued normal trade relations with China are optimistic they will prevail, although it is believed the tally will be closer than last year's 264 to 166 count. The House Ways and Means Committee has gone on record in favor of continued normal trade.
The Senate also has signaled it will reject a disapproval resolution, voting last week against a move to bring the resolution to the floor for action. Even if Congress approved the resolution, Clinton would veto it, and Congress could not get the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto, analysts say.
Consumer groups also favor maintaining the status quo with China. The National Retail Federation took out a full-page ad in Roll Call, an influential Capitol Hill newspaper, saying normal trade relations with China "means affordable goods on Americans shelves."
Farmland Industries, the largest farmer-owned cooperative in the country, also called on Congress to support continuation of normal trade relations with China.
Approval "is one small step that Congress can take to assure that American farmers ... don't suffer further from lost access to this important market," said Farmland Industries president H.D. Cleberg in a statement Friday.
Relations between the U.S. and China have been at an all-time low in recent months, chiefly over U.S. allegations that China stole nuclear weapons secrets from U.S. labs, and the accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade by the U.S., which killed three Chinese nationals and injured 20 others, during the Kosovo conflict.
Critics of the United States' trade policy, including many contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, argue that the U.S. holds the cards and should use them to pressure Beijing to rectify human rights violations in China, and contain China's aggression against its neighbors.
"With the Beijing regime almost daily issuing threats of force and violence against the people of Taiwan, it is imperative that the Republican Party in Congress not sign on to the Clinton-Gore policy of appeasement," GOP presidential contender Patrick Buchanan said last week.
"The special trade privileges that have allowed Beijing to pile up $274 billion in trade surpluses this decade, at our expense, should be suspended. It is that massive trade surplus and the hard currency it has provided that has enabled Communist China to buy and build weapons to put the island and people of Taiwan in mortal peril," Buchanan said.
"Those problems in China are real," Paul told CNSNews.com, "but that's different than a trade problem. The United States could make a moral statement on occasion, but the notion that we could pressure them into doing things is wrong.
"If we had free trade and they were not a civilized society, and civil rights and liberties weren't protected, the investors would never go there and that would put pressure on the Chinese to clean up their act. It's not our job to deal with the internal problems of China," he said.
"One of our problems is we have a president who has allowed and maybe even encouraged the giving away of secrets," Paul said. "The other is, once we start trading with people, we think we should subsidize them."
"The only option that should be available to us is free trade with people, not trade subsidies. China has been receiving tremendous subsidies from us and that's where the evil is," Paul said.
The United States either imposes strong sanctions against countries whose policies it disapproves of or initiates some form of subsidized trading with others, Paul said.
"The advantage of free trade is you get the best deal. Free markets and free trade always work for the benefit of the consumer," he said.