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Angry lawmakers slam US aid to China

Nov 17, 2011

Washington, Nov 17, 2011 - A Congressional hearing on Tuesday saw angry Republican lawmakers train their guns on the Obama administration for extending development aid to China – a country that happens to be America’s biggest creditor and one that has been blamed for currency manipulation and unfair trade practices.

Terming it a waste and insult to Americans at a time when the US faces a national debt crisis, the lawmakers wanted deeper cuts in the whole gamut of US’s foreign aid by slashing the $21 billion budget of the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

The aid to China itself is a mere $12 million for this year, out of a total of $275 million approved over a 10-year period. But all the lawmakers who spoke on the issue, including a Democrat, were puzzled that the US should be providing any aid to a country that also happens to be the world’s second largest economy. Almost everyone catalogued the diverse problems that the US is having with China, regardless of the fact that the latter remains its biggest foreign creditor. An administration official, however, defended the aid, arguing that it would not only help improve China’s environmental law and regulatory system, but also offer business opportunities to US companies that would be training workers in Chinese factories.

Chairing the hearing a panel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Congressman Donald A. Manzullo termed it “a fool’s errand” on the part of the US government when it should be cleaning up its own fiscal trail before helping China clean up its environmental mess.

“We’ve got enough challenges at home without having to worry about US taxpayer monies funding a Chinese government regime notorious for disregarding international norms of trade, human rights, and the environment,” he said, adding: “China’s poor record speaks for itself. None of the organizations, universities, and entities that USAID funds in China are completely independent of Chinese government control.”

Manzullo said each year the US spends over $39 billion in taxpayer funds to support America’s foreign policy objectives abroad. In the Asia region alone, the President’s request for Fiscal Year 2012 amounts to more than $800 million, he said, remarking: “It is up to all of us to ensure that not a penny of taxpayer money is wasted on these programmes.”

The Illinois Congressman said American manufacturers face “unprecedented challenges from illegal Chinese government subsidies, an artificially low exchange rate, adding the American people are “sick and tired of China’s unfair trade practices”. As he put it, “No amount of US government assistance will change China’s intentions to steal our secrets, take our manufacturing jobs and advance its own agenda.” Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman accused US foreign policymakers of being out of touch with taxpayers, commenting it was “an insult to the American people”. Republican Dana Rohrabacher went on to say that aid to China was tantamount to “pouring US taxpayer dollars down the toilet”.

It fell to an Indian American official to defend the Obama administration’s rationale on the China aid issue. Nisha Biswal, Assistant Administrator of USAID, said the organisation’s programmes in China were congressionally-mandated and advanced American values and interests. She stressed that in compliance with congressional intent, no USAID funds were provided directly to the Government of China.

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