President Clinton today signed into law a historic bill granting permanent normal trade relations to China.
He also dispatched his top trade negotiator for urgent talks with Premier Zhu Rongji in hope of settling disputes that threaten Beijing’s WTO bid.
Approved by the U.S. Senate in September and the House of Representatives in May over stiff opposition from labor and human rights groups, the legislation ends the 20-year-old annual ritual of reviewing China’s trade status and guarantees Chinese goods the same low-tariff access to the U.S. market as products from nearly every other nation.
WTO Controversy In exchange for permanent U.S. trade benefits, China agreed to open a wide range of markets — from agriculture to telecommunications — under terms of a landmark agreement the White House hoped would usher Beijing into the World Trade Organization (WTO) later this year.
But U.S. and European trade officials warned that China’s bid to enter the WTO this year was in peril after talks in Geneva stalled over how Beijing would implement WTO rules on intellectual property and meet its other obligations.
U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky, Clinton’s top negotiator, conceded last week that Beijing may not join the WTO this year. But she hoped to spur negotiations along in talks this week in Beijing with Zhu and other leaders.