The China Relations Act of 2000 allowed China to become a permanent member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and opened China’s market up globally.
But Rubio argued the “flawed bipartisan consensus” was a “critical mistake” that tripled the U.S. trade deficit within five years, eliminated tens of thousands of American factories and cost U.S. workers an estimated 2.5 billion jobs.
“This loss has contributed to historic declines in men’s labor force participation, wages and even marriage in the United States,” Rubio said speaking from an event at the Hillsdale College Kirby Center in Washington, D.C., Wednesday.
“And an American Dream … sadly, far too many Americans have come to believe is no longer in reach for people like them,” he added.
Rubio said the deal, which was expected to promote democratic values and an open and fair market and help reduce costs for the American consumer, has become a “geopolitical disaster.”
“Twenty years ago, when you admit China to the World Trade Organization, what you’re basically saying is that this is a country that follows a certain set of rules,” Rubio told Fox News. “We know they didn’t – we should have known they wouldn’t.”
Rubio argued China’s ability to “cheat” the system has meant the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been able to extend its reach globally and bolster its economy while the U.S. has taken economic hits.
“They’re able to subsidize their companies. They’re able to bar our companies from doing business there, but their companies get to do whatever they want here,” he continued.
The Florida Republican said when his father was a banquet bartender in 1985, the “Cost of Thriving Index” produced by Oren Cass found that just 30 work-weeks were needed for the median male worker to afford a year’s worth of basics to raise a family.
“Today, that same index indicates it would take 53 weeks in a 52-week year to do the same,” Rubio explained.
The senator argued that some of the most complex economic struggles the U.S. has experienced over the last decade are a direct result of China’s admittance into the WTO.
“Cities and counties, entire communities hollowed out by the loss of these jobs, these factories dependent on China. Why do we have a supply chain glut? Because most of the things we buy these days are made somewhere else.”
“If they were being made in America, or at least being made in the Dominican Republic or Central America, would be a lot easier to get those things here. But admittance to the WTO opened it up,” he added.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have increasingly pushed to expand the U.S. manufacturing market to bring jobs stateside and reduce the CCP’s stronghold on American companies.
But Rubio said reducing reliance on the Chinese market will require a generational overhaul on consumer expectations.
“To succeed it must be the work of an entire generation and cross the entire political spectrum. It must become our new consensus,” he concluded.