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Friday, January 21, 2000, updated at 16:29(GMT+8)
Business China's PNTR Status: Focus on Agenda of This Year's US Congress Session

The 106th US Congress will reportedly resume session on January 24. Main items on the agenda of the first Congress session resumed after the beginning of 2000 include granting China the PNTR status, voting to decide whether or not to continue US WTO membership, conducting on-the-spot investigation of whether scientific and technological products are illegally transported, finalizing the bill on the control of export of secrete products and bills on enhancing trade with African and Caribbean nations

It is estimated that debate on the motion, "other trade bills", to be tabled by chairman of the House of Representatives Appropriation Committee, will not be very heated. Like the previous "other trade bills", non-controversial tariff adjustment will constitute the greatest part, other scopes to be possibly covered will include administrative bills on export, laws on the quotas of rolled steel and other products, the president's rapid legislative power, and hearing on dealing with problems arising after Seattle ministerial meeting. The "administrative bill on export" (S1712) is expected to be submitted to the Senate in February.

Another action to be taken is the law concerning the control of the export of secrete products. The Congress' attitude toward this matter is, to a great extent, based on how the scientific and technological circles understand the laws put forward by the government. Earlier, the information science and technology circles energetically opposed the first draft of this bill, the latest proposed edition has absorbed most of the opposite opinions. But some Congressmen are still not satisfied with it.

The most controversial item in the present annual meeting is, without a doubt, voting on granting China the PNTR status. President Bill Clinton met with all government officials on January 19, discussing tactics on pushing forward this proposal. Prior to this, Clinton had on January 10 declared appointing William M. Dailey, secretary of commerce, and a deputy head of the presidential office to lead government officials to lobby Congressmen. The White House will strive for support from the Republican Party.

However, no matter how eager the White House is to promote this topic, the Republicans put off the matter time and again. When the Republican in charge of promoting PNTR indicated that the majority of Republicans hoped that the PNTR matter would be discussed only after China and other countries had reached bilateral trading agreements on its WTO entry and had determined the final provisions on WTO entry. This meant that US Congress would not vote on China's PNTR status before this summer. A one-year extension of normal trade relations may possibly be adopted this year and voting on PNTR will not be conducted until 2001. A political analysis shows the longer the PNTR debate is delayed, the more unfavorable it is to the Democratic Party. The most influential factors are the presidential election and the reorganization of the Congress this November, if the debate is near this period, it would be very unfavorable to Al Gore, the Democratic Party's presidential candidate. Trade unions and environmental protection elements do not support opening trade with China, thinking that granting PNTR status to China is disadvantageous to winning votes from these organizations.

Another WTO-related matter needed to be handled this year by US Congress is voting to decide whether or not to retain US WTO membership. According to Chapter 125 of the Uruguay Accord, the United States is required to submit a report every five years, indicating US intention to continue its WTO membership, this report is due on March 1 this year. Within 90 days after the receipt of the report, the Congress can table a motion, urging the US government to withdraw from the WTO. At present, several Congressmen have expressed their intention to call on US to withdraw from the WTO. But this motion must have the approval of both chambers before it can be adopted, and the signature of the president before it can go into effect. But Clinton will unlikely sign this proposal. Anyway, as soon as this proposal is put forward, it is bound to spark public discussion and thereby inspiring the sentiment of protectionism. Recent WTO-related events, such as the failure of the WTO ministerial meeting in Seattle, the beef and banana trade wars between the United States and the European Union, the WTO decision to thoroughly investigate US export-oriented enterprises which violated WTO regulations, reports on opposition to US 1917 anti-dumping bill, US record high trade deficits in 1999, --all may possibly arouse the sentiment of protectionism.

The first trading item on the agenda after the resumption of the Congress session will be the bill on enhancing trade with African and Caribbean nations. With regard to the bill on textiles, the edition of the House of Representatives is different from that of the Senate, whether the two can compromise remains uncertain. The viewpoints of the Senate and the White House are close to each other, being inclined to set up strict regulations, in order to prompt the above-mentioned countries to use US yarn and cloth, the stand of the House of Representatives is relatively open. Leaders of the Congress indicated their intention to first adopt this bill.

Owing to the fact that many items of controversial international trade affairs remain to be resolved, it is believed that within the period of this annual session, the US Congress will definitely engage in endless quarrel.

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