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Cotton Announces Bill to Revoke China’s ‘Most Favored Nation’ Status

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing in Washington, D.C., May 5, 2020. (Andrew Harnik/Reuters)

Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) announced Monday that he is introducing legislation to repeal permanent most favored nation trade status, a designation that guarantees equal trading opportunity among a nation’s trade partners.

In an appearance on Fox & Friends, Cotton criticized China’s status as a most favored nation, and said he would introduce legislation this week that would require the president and congress to reassess the status each year.

Under Cotton’s new legislation if China were to “shoot missiles at our ships in the Western Pacific” or crack down on Hong Kong as it has done this year, “then we would be able to say each year we are not going to renew most favored nation status for China,” he said. 

The senator also blasted Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for his decades of support of increased trade opportunities with the Chinese Communist Party.

“This week is the twentieth anniversary of Joe Biden voting to give permanent most favored nation status to China,” he said. “Just think about that — most favored nation status to a communist country.”

He said the status had “supercharged the loss of American manufacturing jobs” and criticized the former vice president for defending it last week during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Tapper asked Biden, “A lot of people think that allowing China into the World Trade Organization, which you supported, extending most favored nation status to China, which you supported, that those steps allowed China to take advantage of the United States by using our own open trade deals against us. Do you think, in retrospect, you were naive about China?”

Biden defended the stance saying, “No, here is the thing. In the context of that, we want China to grow. We don’t want a war with China.”

Cotton has shown repeated disapproval of Biden’s stance on China and in March published an article at National Review titled “Joe Biden Is China’s Choice for President,” in which he criticized Biden’s support for China’s most favored nation status. 

In the critical fight over whether to grant most-favored-nation trade status and World Trade Organization membership to China in the 1990s — a fight in which, again, many of his party’s leaders in Congress were on the right side — Biden carefully shepherded China through the process from his powerful perch as the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” the longtime China hawk wrote. 

In 2000, Biden voted to approve Permanent Normal Trade Relations with the country, which created a path for China to become a member of the World Trade Organization one year later.

“Wherever a brake might have been applied — by placing human-rights or labor conditions on most-favored-nation status, for example — Biden voted the measures down and lobbied other senators for Beijing,” Cotton continued. “Unfortunately, China and Biden got their way, and American workers are still suffering from it.”

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