U.S. presidential candidate and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he would take steps to revoke China’s permanent normal trade relations status if he won the 2024 White House race.
He said efforts to include China in global trade frameworks have been a failure and advocated for revoking China’s preferential trade status. “I think we probably need Congress but I would take executive action as appropriate to be able to move us in that direction,” DeSantis told Fox News on July 9, 2023. He also called China “the No 1 geopolitical threat” to the US.
The position taken by the Governor and presidential candidate DeSantis reflects the hardening anti-China position amongst US policy makers. After the Tiananmen Massacre, the extension of Most-Favored Nation (MFN) trade status to China became a focal issue in Sino-US relations. Most members of Congress called for attachment of conditions and even revocation of the status. The yearly renewal process of the trade status became a major battle between those who advocated for free trade and those promoting human rights. The free trade camp sought to make the argument that the best way to promote human rights in China was through trade and they advocated for granting China permanent most-favored nation trading status. President Bill Clinton delinked human rights from the annual extension of MFN trade status for China in 1994 and aligned himself with the business lobby and with those who believed more engagement and trade with China was the best way to ensure a more open and free China. The US Senate voted to give China permanent MFN status in 2000. This vote paved the way for China’s accession to the World Trade Organization. However, some in the US Congress now want to end China’s Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status. Republican Senators Tom Cotton, Jim Inhofe and Rick Scott introduced a bill in March 2021 to end China’s trade status.
Governor DeSantis has adopted a very hardline position on China. On May 8, 2023, he signed three bills to “counteract the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the state of Florida.” The bills seek to prevent Chinese entities or affiliates from buying farmland in Florida or land near military bases and critical infrastructure. They attempt to stop sensitive data from being stored on servers that might be owned by entities affiliated with the CCP. They prohibit the Chinese influence rooted out of higher education from working its way into our primary and secondary education institutions. They block access to applications, such as Tik Tok, ongovernment and educational institution servers and devices.
“Florida is taking action to stand against the United States’ greatest geopolitical threat — the Chinese Communist Party,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “I’m proud to sign this legislation to stop the purchase of our farmland and land near our military bases and critical infrastructure by Chinese agents, to stop sensitive digital data from being stored in China, and to stop CCP influence in our education system from grade school to grad school. We are following through on our commitment to crack down on Communist China.”