Many consumers in the United States are hostile to Beijing's entry to the World Trade Organisation because US administrations have failed to explain the benefits of its membership, according to former US assistant secretary of state James Rubin. Mr Rubin, who resigned from the State Department in February, said yesterday that one of the failings of the Clinton administration and others was not explaining the value of cheap imports. 'Leaders in our country have not made that case as convincingly as they should,' Mr Rubin said at the annual CLSA Investors' Forum for fund managers. 'If you want to have a basket of goods and you're not a highly paid worker, cheap imports are a way to increase your salary effectively.' Simple arithmetic should tell consumers that buying imports from the mainland at half the price of locally manufactured goods was like increasing their salary by 50 per cent, Mr Rubin said. 'I think we've done very poorly in explaining that phenomenon,' he said. Later this month, the US Congress will vote on whether to grant permanent Normal Trade Relations (NTR) to the mainland. At present, the mainland's trade privileges are voted on annually. Permanent NTR was part of a Washington-Beijing agreement clearing the way for the mainland's expected entry to the WTO this year. US presidents and their administrations tended to focus on exports in their explanations of the trade agreement, Mr Rubin said. For example, Beijing has promised to open its markets to foreign competitors if it is granted permanent NTR. Mr Rubin admitted it is difficult for US companies to gain access to the mainland for their products and if permanent NTR was granted, the US would be able to sell goods more easily to the market, which would be good for American workers. He said the US would be best served if the mainland was more prosperous and open. He said the permanent NTR agreement would go a long way towards helping that happen. 'Just as imports benefit the United States . . . imports would also benefit China, especially in the high-tech area,' Mr Rubin said. The mainland has many failing industries as well as state structures in desperate need of foreign investment and expertise, Mr Rubin said. Beijing views 'the WTO and trade and American and international involvement in companies as a way to give stagnant [mainland] industries a shot in the arm', he said.