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Bush calls for extending normal trade with China

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BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- President Bush has asked Congress to support extending normal trade relations for China, arguing it would benefit U.S. workers and consumers.

The president made his request for a one-year extension in a letter to congressional leaders released Friday while he was in Boston attending the funeral of Rep. Joe Moakley.

"Normal trade relations -- a status which virtually every other country in the world receives from the United States -- is in the interests of American workers," Bush said in a prepared statement Friday.

Congress approved permanent normal trade relations for China last year, but that move is contingent on Beijing becoming a member of the World Trade Organization. China's move into the WTO has been delayed by a dispute with Washington over Beijing's agricultural subsidies, so normalized trade must be approved each year until it joins.

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Bush said about 400,000 American workers have jobs or benefit indirectly from trade with China. He said U.S. farmers last year exported more than $3 billion in goods to China and Hong Kong, and the number is expected to grow as China lifts limits on American products like citrus, wheat and meat.

He said fair trade would help cement ties with Beijing, promote "American values of transparency and accountability" and make sure China follows the rule of law in dealings with its citizens and others abroad. It also "is in the interests of American consumers, especially those who live from paycheck to paycheck and depend on inexpensive goods from China to enhance their quality of life."

"The United States has a huge stake in the emergence of an economically open, politically stable and secure China," Bush said. "Recent events have shown not only that we need to speak frankly and directly about our differences, but that we also need to maintain dialogue and cooperate with one another on those areas where we have common interests."

Bush's support for an extension was widely expected, but it will help to clear the air when China's Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng meets new U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick for the first time next Tuesday on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific trade conference in Shanghai.

Congress is expected to back the request, but lawmakers could still take the opportunity to attach conditions or criticize China's human rights record and other policies dividing the two countries. Many Democrats have insisted on strong labor and environmental provisions in any trade agreement as a condition for their support.

After Bush officially certifies the trade status for China, Congress can call a vote to overturn it within 30 days.

The meeting between Zoellick and Shi has raised hopes of a breakthrough in the dispute over the agricultural subsidies Beijing can pay its farmers, which has stalled multilateral talks on China's WTO entry for months. Washington wants China to be classified as a developed country, allowing farm subsidies of just five percent of the value of total production. China says it is entitled to pay subsidies of 10 percent as a developing country.








RELATED SITES:
• World Trade Organization
• International Trade Administration - U.S. Department of Commerce

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