House Approves China Trade Bill
By Tony Iallonardo
The United States House of Representatives voted 237-197 on May 25 in favor of granting China permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) after months of acrimonious debate. Prior to the vote in the House, Conference President and Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb sent Congressional leaders a letter signed by 48 Mayors urging passage of the trade measure. The Conference of Mayors has not formally endorsed the bill however, though Mayors will have an opportunity to do so at the Annual Meeting in Seattle June 9-13.
Speaking shortly after the vote, President Bill Clinton praised the passage of the landmark bill as a step forward for reform as well as for the US economy and world peace. In a televised speech, Mr. Clinton said if the Senate also voted in favor of PNTR, "they will open new doors of trade for America and new hope for change in China."
"For China this agreement will clearly increase the benefits of cooperation and the costs of confrontation," he added. "We will have more positive influence with an outstretched hand than a clenched fist."
Passage in the Senate is not assured. Shortly after the vote, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (NC) indicated he would actively oppose the legislation.
Granting China permanent normal trade relations will reduce U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods to the level enjoyed by all but a handful of nations and is a key element of a landmark Sino-U.S. trade accord signed last November as part of China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).