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Wednesday, May 10, 2000

Isle Republicans
see brighter prospects

Bullet The issue: Hawaii Republicans are optimistic about their election chances.

Bullet Our view: The Democratic legislators' failure to approve civil service reform could help their cause.

HAWAII Republicans turned out in unusually large numbers for their annual convention and expressed optimism about their prospects for increasing their numbers in elective offices. Of course, they have a long way to go to achieve anything approaching equality with the long-dominant Democrats.

Linda Lingle, who came very close to winning the governorship in 1998 and is now leading the state GOP, has infused the party with enthusiasm. The trick is to translate that enthusiasm into election victories.

Lingle is virtually certain to be the Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2002, but the party has to field attractive candidates in a number of legislative races if it is to make an impact on public policy in this state. It's been a long time since that happened.

The lackluster performance of the Democrat-controlled Legislature in the session that just ended could furnish Republicans with ammunition for their calls for change. The domination of the public employee unions was obvious as the lawmakers rejected most of Governor Cayetano's proposals for civil service reform and cuts in retirement benefits.

Cayetano did not announce his bold proposals for reform until he had been re-elected and could safely defy the unions who had campaigned for him. Lingle pointed out that Cayetano was a lame duck when he came out for reform, lacking the clout to push the reforms through the Legislature. It will take a more determined effort than that to achieve results, she said.

Most of the people of Hawaii do not work for government and are not members of the public employee unions. But their apathy has let the public unions, which are proficient at mobilizing their members, call the political shots. The result is an inefficient, overly expensive state government and a Legislature that shuns reform because its members depend on the public unions for re-election.

Republicans hope to exploit growing dissatisfaction with this state of affairs. The obvious pitch is that the Democrats have shown themselves incapable of reforming state government because they are the captives of the unions. The challenge is to get people to break the habit of voting Democratic that has developed over decades.

Ex-presidents back
normal status for China

Bullet The issue: The Clinton administration is asking Congress to approve permanent normal trade status for China.

Bullet Our view: As three former presidents and other leaders contend, failure to approve the status could be disastrous.

MANY of the most distinguished figures of recent political history have turned out in support of granting China permanent normal trade status. Headed by former Presidents Bush, Carter and Ford, they comprise a who's who from Republican and Democratic administrations -- former secretaries of state, national security advisers and other high officials -- as well as the respected current Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan.

Ford, speaking at a ceremony in the White House East Room, said a vote against the trade measure "would be catastrophic, disastrous to American agriculture, electronics, telecommunications, autos and countless other products and services."

Carter acknowledged that China has failed to take adequate steps in terms of human rights, democracy and labor standards. "But there is no doubt in my mind that a negative vote on this issue in the Congress will be a serious setback and impediment for the further democratization, freedom and human rights in China," he said.

This is an accurate assessment. Permanent normal trade relations -- normal trade status was formerly known as most-favored-nation status -- should be approved. Rejection by Congress would achieve nothing positive, would hurt U.S. exports and could cause serious damage to the Sino-American relationship and to the movement for democratization in China. Even the newly elected president of Taiwan supports granting Beijing permanent status.

At risk are important concessions to U.S. exports obtained in difficult negotiations with Beijing culminating last November. These concessions could help correct the huge current imbalance in trade in China's favor.

In return, the Clinton administration agreed to permanent normal trade status rather than the current situation in which Congress must renew China's normal trade status annually. In theory, under current law Congress can refuse to grant such status, but that has never happened. China's entry into the World Trade Organization is not at issue.

Administration supporters concede they face a tough fight, especially in rounding up Democratic votes in the House, where the opposition is led by Minority Leader Richard Gephardt. Among the likely opponents are Hawaii Reps. Neil Abercrombie and Patsy Mink, both strong allies of organized labor.

Despite labor's denunciations, the facts are all on the side of approval of permanent trade status. Rejection would be a huge blow to American exporters -- and workers -- and to U.S. relations with China.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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