SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - With the support of high-technology executives and moderate Democrats, President Clinton today pushed Congress to approve normal trade relations with China.
With this city's Tech Museum of Innovation serving as his backdrop, Clinton touted the benefits of trade with China to members of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council. Both the DLC and the high-tech community are strong supporters of granting permanent normal trade relations with China.
The administration is asking Congress to give China the same permanent low-tariff access to U.S. markets it routinely gives nearly all other trading partners. China's status now must be renewed annually. The change would facilitate China's entry into the World Trade Organization.
Clinton said the economic consequences of letting China into the WTO are ``100 to nothing'' in the United States' favor. It puts U.S companies in a position to expose the Chinese people to an open, democratic way of life, Clinton said, while China would have no greater influence in the United States than it has now.
``I think the answer is to allow them in, and let liberty spread from within,'' Clinton said. ``They know it may unleash forces that the leaders themselves may not control.''
Some House Democrats and organized labor oppose the trade agreement. But the DLC and Clinton have used their support of free trade as evidence that they are different from the old liberal Democratic politicians of the past.
The pro-trade faction of the party is finding allies among the growing high-technology industry. High-tech companies have begun a major lobbying campaign in support of China trade.
Chief executive officers of 200 high-tech companies, including Microsoft, IBM and Sun Microsystems, signed a letter urging Congress to approve permanent normal trade relations with China. ``We consider it the most critical vote you will make in support of our high-technology industries,'' the executives wrote.
The Clinton administration today released that letter, as well as a separate letter in support of China trade signed by 40 governors.
``We tried to get the high-technology community more involved in the effort around this vote,'' White House spokesman Jake Siewert said. ``A lot of members on the Hill listen to the high-tech community. They're the ones creating jobs.''
High-tech companies and the people who run them have become a major source of campaign giving. Upon arriving here from Las Vegas Sunday evening, Clinton went straight to a fund-raiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The event, expected to raise $1.1 million, was held at the home of Jim Jorgensen, chief executive officer of AllAdvantage.com, a 1-year-old Internet company, and sponsored by other high-tech industry executives.
Around 150 people, who paid at least $5,000 each to attend the event, joined Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea; House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt; California Gov. Gray Davis; and several area congressional candidates for chicken skewers, grilled salmon and chocolate cupcakes.
``Don't let this election be about little things. And don't let this election be about divisive things,'' Clinton said. ``We've got the chance of a lifetime to build the future of our dreams.''
Earlier in the day, Clinton raised $525,000 for the Democratic National Committee at two fund-raisers in Las Vegas.
In his talk to the party faithful, Clinton said voters must choose between the short-term gratification of an outsized Republican tax cut or the long-term satisfaction of knowing the money will keep safety-net programs like Medicare and Social Security in the black for another generation of retiring Americans.
``This is a moment for making tomorrows. This is not a moment for indulging ourselves in all this good stuff that's going on today,'' Clinton said. ``Are we going to pick leaders that we know understand the future and can take us there, or are we going to pick people who say things we like to hear and may make things easier for a month or two?''