FACT CHECK: Did Bush Support China Joining The World Trade Organization?

David Sivak | Fact Check Editor

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon claimed in an interview Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes” that former President George W. Bush let China join the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Verdict: True

The Bush administration backed China’s membership in the WTO.

Fact Check:

In the interview, Bannon framed American support for China joining the WTO as a mistake that contributed to China’s rise as an economic competitor.

“The elites in this country have got us in a situation,” lamented Bannon. “The geniuses in the Bush administration that let China in the WTO, and genius in the Bush administration told us, ‘Hey, they’re gonna be a liberal democracy. They’re going to be free-market capitalism.’ Okay? The same geniuses that got us into Iraq, that’s the geniuses of the Bush administration.”

China gained admission to the WTO in 2001, a move that more fully integrated the country into the world economy. To become a member, China committed to reducing agricultural and industrial tariffs and abide by rules-based trade with other WTO members.

The Bush administration supported membership for China, arguing it would push the country towards liberal reforms and benefit the U.S. economy. “For businesses and workers and farmers it will mean lower trade barriers and important opportunities for U.S. exports and more work and jobs for United States workers,” Bush said in a speech around that time. ”For the people of China it holds out the hope of more open contact with the world of freedom.”

China began enacting economic reforms in 1979 that, among other things, opened the agriculture sector up to free market principles and slowly eliminated price controls in parts of the economy. Although the country has moved towards free market principles over time, the government still heavily controls the economy.

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David Sivak

Fact Check Editor

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