Schumer To Delay Approval Of U.S. Trade Rep Nomination Over Concerns On Trade Reciprocity In China
Schumer and Graham Send USTR Nominee Schwab Letter with Questions on Financial Services Reciprocity and Chinas WTO Commitments
After Schwabs Disappointing Responses at Committee Hearing, Schumer Wants Questions Answered Before Allowing Nominee to Move Forward
Today, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer was joined by Sen. Lindsey Graham in writing a letter to President Bushs nominee to be the U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Susan Schwab. Schumer objected to the unanimous consent request to approve her nomination without a vote or debate. In particular, the senators are concerned with the Administrations willingness to press for reciprocity for financial firms that want to invest in China.
Senator Schumer has said that he is reluctant to allow the nominee to move forward until he receives answers to the questions in the SchumerGraham letter. Below are both letters to Ambassador Schwab:
May 26, 2006
Ambassador Susan C. Schwab
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative
600 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20508
Dear Ambassador Schwab,
As you know, China currently places limitations on how much foreign ownership is allowed in various industries operating within its borders.
It is our ardent belief that American financial services firms should have the same access to Chinas financial markets that Chinese firms enjoy in the United States. Unfortunately, all signs point to the contrary. Today, the Chinese government erects significant barriers aimed at restricting the ability of American financial services firms to compete in an open and fair manner in China. For example, U.S. securities firms are limited to establishing minorityowned joint ventures, with ownership capped at 33 percent.
Aside from the seemingly arbitrary and onerous ownership requirements, U.S. firms also face a number of other troubling impediments in China, including limitations on the scope of business, the inability to trade in derivative markets, and uneven procedures for regulatory transparency such as a process for public notice and comment.
Market access and national treatment for U.S. financial services in accessing Chinas markets is not merely a matter of fairness; it will ultimately create new opportunities for U.S. firms and increase global economic growth. Given the competitive advantage we enjoy in research, product development, and regulatory structure, a freer market in China would bolster the U.S. economy
While China has promised to eliminate quantitative restrictions on foreign ownership in financial services by the end of this year, their true commitment to openness and reciprocity is still open to question. In fact, according to publications by the U.S.China Business Council, several Chinese banking officials have hinted that they are looking for ways to slow the entry of foreign banks to the sector without violating Chinas WTO commitments. Specifically, the mainland press has reported that China was considering restricting foreign banks to the lessprosperous central and western regions, and capping at two the number of Chinese banks in which foreign banks could take a stake. We are very concerned about this, because we have seen before how China can make promises but then find creative ways not to keep them.
In your written responses to questions from your May 16 confirmation hearing before the Committee on Finance, you indicated that USTR has been working diligently to ensure that China keep its WTO commitments to eliminate these restrictions on financial services. However, you also said that the Administration has been reminding, stressing, and emphasizing the importance of these commitments. Yet it is only rhetoric to verbally push China to do what they have already promised to do.
We have seen firsthand on the currency manipulation issue how limited the rhetorical strategy can be. China has promised time and time again to allow market forces to gradually appreciate its currency, yet the yuan has appreciated by only 1.1 percent since last July. We do not regard this as significant progress, and we do not want the same thing to happen with financial services liberalization.
We would like to learn from you how USTR plans to work with Treasury to ensure that China keeps its commitments in the area of financial services and what is USTR prepared to do if they fail to do so?
Specifically, we would like answers to the following questions at your earliest convenience.
1. What is your understanding of all of the current quantitative and qualitative restrictions that exist for U.S. financial services firms trying to do business in China, in terms of joint ventures, the ability to operate independently (i.e., to just go into China and start a company or open a branch), and the ability to purchase Chinese companies outright?
2. What is your understanding of the commitments China has made in all of these areas, in terms of restrictions that are due to be liberalized or lifted entirely by the end of 2006?
3. What specific initiatives, if any, does USTR have underway to push China to permit U.S. financial services firms to establish whollyowned securities or banking companies in China?
4. What is the office of the United States Trade Representative doing to lay the groundwork for Chinas promise to eliminate quantitative restrictions in financial services by the end of 2006? What procedures does your office have in place to monitor their actions and determine if they have kept their promise?
5. Have you or Treasury already had discussions with Chinese officials about how the landscape will look when the restrictions are lifted, in terms of (a) the process for license applications and the length of time before applications will be approved, (b) any restrictions on the number of branches a bank or securities firm may open, (c) any geographic limitations that may be imposed, or other issues? If so, what has been agreed to?
6. Finally, what specific actions does USTR plan to take if it becomes plainly apparent in early 2007 that China is not meeting its commitments?
We appreciate your patience and willingness to respond to these questions, and we look forward to your prompt reply.
Charles E. Schumer Lindsey O. Graham
May 26, 2006 Ambassador Susan C. Schwab Deputy U.S. Trade Representative 600 17th Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20508
Dear Ambassador Schwab,
As you know, I have taken action to prevent the Senate from unanimously approving your nomination to replace Ambassador Rob Portman as United States Trade Representative.
I want to emphasize that my reluctance to allow your nomination to be approved expeditiously and unanimously, without floor debate or a roll call vote, is not related in any way to your qualifications or experience. I know that most Senators support your nomination, and it is very possible that I will as well. I simply believe that this is a very critical time for U.S. trade relations, and I felt that your responses to several of my questions at your nomination hearing, particularly as they related to China and financial services, were unnecessarily evasive and unhelpful.
Senator Lindsey Graham and I have submitted to you a list of simple, straightforward followup questions on the issue of financial services liberalization in China. Please forward your answers which I will share with my colleagues as soon as possible, so we may proceed on your nomination with greater understanding of your views and goals.
Charles. E. Schumer