This weeks landmark U.S.-China trade accord is producing jubilation and fears around the globe. The European Union and Canada now wonder whether they can reach terms as advantageous. Meanwhile, the World Trade Organizations Nov. 30 ministerial meeting in Seattle promises to be a focus point for demonstrators worrying about the deals implications for environmental standards, trade unions and national sovereignty.
All those issues are certain to provoke plenty of debate. As they should. In the end, though, this trade normalization measure is in the best U.S. interests. Short-term, it enables American companies -- from computer and telecommunications providers to investment firms and agribusiness giants -- to compete in previously closed but rapidly growing sectors of the lucrative Chinese economy. Long-term, it should give added stability and openness to Chinas evolving political system by strengthening the countrys free-enterprise experiments and tying them to a world financial order. These latter considerations gain added strength from the recent struggle between economic and ideological reformers and conservatives in Beijing.
The trade accord brings China closer to a membership in the WTO but not into it. Beijing still has to negotiate plenty of tricky bilateral agreements. So far, China has ironed out mutually satisfactory understandings with only 13 of the 135 WTO members. The now-concluded pacts with the United States, Japan and Australia carry so much weight, though, others will be easier to complete. Likely to benefit from this progress is Taiwan, which is also hoping for a WTO membership and has completed all of its bilateral talks.
Relations between the United States and China have a tortuous history. Outsiders have often tried to meddle in China, but without much success. Encouraging the Asian giant to be friendly and democratic through free trade is not U.S. meddling. It is in both countries best interest.