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Clinton signs China trade bill Tuesday

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton closed years of political and economic debate Tuesday and marked a major achievement of his administration when he formally gave his signature to legislation to permenantly normalize trade with China.

Clinton signed the measure, approved by Congress this year, in a White House ceremony Tuesday afternoon. In attendance were key lawmakers and members of the administration to the South Lawn to for the signing ceremony for the U.S.-China Relations Act of 2000.

"This is a great day for the United States," the president said, after thanking all of those present for their efforts on passing the bill. "As the world economy becomes vastly more complex and interconnected, China's participation in it has only become more important -- for America for Asia and for the world."

The bill's passage by the Senate on September 19 capped years of negotiations with Beijing and intense lobbying by the Clinton administration, business and labor interests. The move is designed to open China's mammoth market to U.S. businesses and pave the way for China's entry into the World Trade Organization, ending a 20-year-old U.S. ritual of annually reviewing China's trade status.

"The passage of PNTR is an important step ... not just in strategic terms, it also reflects a tactical commitment to sustaining economic growth and a rising standard of living here at home, said Sen. William Roth, a Delaware Republican. The legislation will brighten the economic future for U.S. workers, he emphasized.

President Clinton: "As the world economy becomes vastly more complex and interconnected, China's participation in it has only become more important -- for America for Asia and for the world."  

"This is truly epic legislation," said retiring Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-New York.

The bill survived a bruising battle in the House of Representatives in May, and Clinton has hailed the measure as a turning point in relations between the world's richest and most populous nations.

The legislation "will touch the lives of every American today and for generations to come, Rep. Bill Archer, R-Texas, said. "Expanding U.S. trade with China will truly be remembered as another landmark achievement of this Congress."

Granting permanent, normal trade relations to China is considered the most important U.S. trade legislation since passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993. But it faced a long campaign of opposition from labor, human rights and conservative groups who wanted to retain the annual review of trade relations with China.

U.S. business interests wanted the agreement in order to gain access to China's market of 1-billion-plus people. But critics argued that such an agreement would reward a repressive communist state, undermine the country's labor and environmental protections and cost jobs for U.S. workers.

Clinton had long argued that bringing China into the global trade regime will help make Beijing a more responsible and accountable member of the world community.

The legislation is the result of a nearly year-old agreement between the U.S. and China that would ease China's entry into the World Trade Organization. With WTO membership, China will make significant cuts in its tariffs, thus opening its markets to the products and investment of America and other countries.

China must also grant Americans and others the right to set up distribution points within the country, open its financial and service sectors to international competitors, and allow outside participation in the development of its Internet and telecommunications sectors.

Some opponents worried that the U.S. would be unable to influence Beijing over human rights concerns without a yearly vote on trade. To counter those concerns, the legislation calls for setting up a congressional-executive commission to monitor human rights in China and creates a so-called surge mechanism to help American industries and workers hurt by an increase in Chinese imports.





Tuesday, October 10, 2000


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