China Trade Approval Likely, But Not Without A Fight

By John S. McClenahen After last year's "permanent" approval to normal trade relations (NTR) with China, the U.S. Congress certainly did not expect to be voting on the issue again this year. But because China has yet to complete the process of joining the World Trade Organization, U.S. law requires another Congressional review. NTR is expected to be approved, with economic arguments being the decisive element. Last year, U.S. businesses increased shipments to China by 24%, making the People's Republic the eleventh largest market for U.S. exports, President George W. Bush noted on June 1, the day the White House formally sent its NTR renewal request to Capitol Hill. "Normal trade relations -- a status which virtually every other country in the world receives from the United States -- is in the interest of American workers, some 400,000 of whom are employed in or benefit directly from America's trade with China," Bush also said. Yet the expected approval won't be automatic. For example, "although most consider the vote a meaningless exercise, recent events, such as the spy plane incident and the on-going Falun Gong persecution, have raised diplomatic tensions between [the U.S. and China] and have some in Congress for the revocation of trading rights with China," observes the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank in Washington. And yet to be seen is what effect, if any, the shift in control of the U.S. Senate to the Democrats from Republicans will have on the outcome.

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