December 11th was the 20th anniversary of China’s admission to the World Trade Organization (WTO). U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Twitter, “20 years ago, by granting it WTO membership, the world gave the Chinese Communist Party a blank check to break its market promises & cheat American workers, while exploiting its own workers.”

“As I predicted then, this decision was an economic failure for our workers and a moral failure for our values, where the world put deals ahead of ideals.”

“US workers must be the core of our trade policy. Democrats are taking action to create U.S. jobs, promote our global competitiveness, fix supply chains & maintain the best workforce in the world, while holding the CCP accountable for human rights abuses & breaking trade pledges.”

Past U.S. presidents have adopted an open trade and economic policy approach towards China. President George HW Bush Senior announced the extension of MFN (Most-Favoured-Nation) status to China in 1990, tied to human rights issues.

Under Bill Clinton in 1995, MFN status for China has expanded again but decoupled from human rights issues and further expanded US-China economic and trade cooperation.

With the backing of the Clinton administration, China joined the WTO in 2001.

The United States expected that China would integrate into the international system and follow international rules.

The US trade deficit with China at the time was US$ 81.2 billion. WTO accession offered opportunities for China’s rapid economic growth. The US-China trade deficit widened sharply under George W Bush Junior and reached 279 billion US$ in 2008.

Under Obama, US-China trade shrank for a short time due to the financial crisis. It then increased for a second time, with the US-China trade deficit peaking at 355.8 billion US$ in 2015.

Republican Senator Rick Scott in Florida tweeted on December 12th, “Communist China has spent every day of the last 20 years lying & breaking the rules. The WTO has turned into its puppet and still classifies it as a “developing country.” If Biden wants to protect US interests, he’ll demand real change that holds this genocidal regime accountable.”

US Trade Representative Dai Qi gave the Biden administration’s first China trade policy speech in early October. She said that since China joined the WTO 20 years ago, the Chinese Communist Party has not changed its trading strategy.

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