Warns Against 'Demonizing China' on Trade Issues

HONOLULU (Aug. 20) -- With Asia-Pacific economies "where the future is," a top U.S. trade official said today that he wants to promote Hawaii as a "premier" business location in the region.

Grant Aldonas, under secretary for international trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce, said he will meet with Gov. Linda Lingle Wednesday to "marry resources" with the state government and local business community.

"We need to know where the governor and business community want to go," Aldonas said at the East-West Center. "Our goal is to ramp up efforts to identify Hawaii as a premier place to do business."

He said the United States is refocusing attention on trade and economic issues in the Asia-Pacific region. "At the end of the day, the strongest and most dynamic growth rate is still in the Asia-Pacific region. We know where the future is. We have to make sure we are deeply anchored."

Aldonas also said the United States must "resist demonizing China" on trade as it did with Japan. He said China has been more open on some issues than either Japan or South Korea. "China is willing to meet us more than halfway," he said.

He emphasized that this message must be better communicated in Washington, particularly to Congress, to avoid problems of the past. "We can't slip into the category of pointing fingers at them. It may not be China, it may be the home front."

While multilateral trade agreements still "deliver the most," the United States will continue to negotiate bilateral trade agreements, he said. The United States now has free trade agreements with Singapore and Chile. Talks on a free trade agreement have moved ahead with Australia, a strong U.S. partner in the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. The United States is discussing trade issues with other countries including Jordan and Bahrain, he said.

Asked about the growing international perception that politics and trade have become more connected since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Aldonas said these issues have been given a "lot of thought." Aldonas said there are times when you "wield power in your interests...times you must draw the line."

He also made a strong connection between the promotion of free trade and democracy. "When we advance the cause of free trade, we advance the cause of freedom."

Aldonas spoke at a lunch sponsored by the East-West Center, the Pacific Asian Management Institute, Pacific and Asian Affairs Council, and Friends of the East-West Center.

The East-West Wire is a news service provided by the East-West Center in Honolulu. Any or all of this report may be used with attribution to the East-West Center or to the person quoted.

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