The American Soybean Association (ASA) is taking the lead in rallying producer support for a message that is critical to the U.S. soybean industry: "Congress must approve Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with China."

The Chinese market is growing quickly and could easily become the No. 1 importer of U.S. soybeans and soybean products. ASA is focused on urging Congress to approve PNTR for China this year, as early as possible.

"It is important to understand that U.S. markets are open to Chinese products," said ASA President Marc Curtis. "Establishing Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China will open China's vast markets to U.S. products." The China market has been a priority for U.S. soybean producers since 1982, when ASA opened an office in Beijing.

Speaking at the fifth annual Commodity Classic, in Orlando, FL, Curtis stressed the importance of the groundwork that has been done, by saying: "Hats off to the Administration's trade team that did an excellent job negotiating the World Trade Organization agreement with China last fall. That agreement paves the way for expanded U.S. access to the Chinese market. But there is another critical step that must take place if U.S. farmers are to benefit from this historic trade agreement. We must get Congress to approve Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China."

Making a special appearance at this year's Commodity Classic, Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman said, about PNTR, "I believe it is the most important trade issue facing the agriculture community this year."

In his address to more than a thousand farmers, Glickman said, "By joining the WTO, China would agree to open its market to us as never before; they would cut tariffs dramatically, to a point lower than many of those levied by our traditional trading partners. When it is all said and done, we estimate conservatively that China's accession to the WTO will mean an additional $2 billion a year in total U.S. farm exports to China by 2005."

Glickman continued, "In this case, all the concessions are on their side, and all the benefits are on ours. We have nothing to lose by passing PNTR and bringing China into the WTO. Perhaps more importantly, we have everything to lose by rejecting it. American farmers and workers would lose the benefits of increased exports to China, while China's WTO concessions would be extended to our competitors."

Also appearing at Commodity Classic, Department of State Under Secretary Alan Larson said, "Our bilateral deal with China for the terms under which it will join the WTO is a great deal for America and American farmers. We give up nothing, and when China joins the WTO, our access to the world's most populous country will improve dramatically. The numbers are impressive: Over the past 20 years, China's economy has grown nearly 10% per year, and our exports have grown from almost nothing to $14 billion a year. When China joins the WTO and gets permanent normal trading rights, it is our markets that will remain the same, while China's will become more accessible."

Al Ambrose, chairman of the National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA), said, "While the U.S. gains access to its growing market, China does not gain any greater access to the U.S. market under the negotiated agreement, making it a win-win for American Exports. We must get this message to Congress to ensure that the United States shares in the long-term benefits of global trade."

ASA is actively involved in a grassroots campaign to get Congress to approve PNTR early this year. Failure to obtain Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China will stifle U.S. trade and give foreign competitors free access to vast Chinese markets.

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