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Friday, February 25, 2000, updated at 16:20(GMT+8)


Clinton Urges Support for China's Permanent NTR Status

U.S. President Bill Clinton on Thursday pledged to do his best to enlist Congressional support for China's permanent Normal Trade Relations (NTR) status, a decision "once in a generation" his country has to make in the near future.

"We have first got to sell this agreement to the Congress, and we can't underestimate how hard it will be. I want you to know that I will push as hard as I can to secure agreement, as quickly as possible," Clinton said in a speech to the Business Council at Park Hyatt.

"It's the kind of opportunity that comes along once in a generation," he told the meeting of executives of major American companies. The decision "will affect our grandchildren's lives. And we dare not make the wrong decision."

Clinton warned that if the U.S. Congress fails to approve permanent Normal Trading Relations for China, the United States will risk "losing the full benefits of China's WTO membership."

"In a global market economy, your companies will be shut off from a fifth of the world while your European, Japanese and other competitors will take advantage of the benefits we went to the

trouble to negotiate," he said.

"Failure would also send a signal to the world that America is turning inward. It would be, I believe, a devastating setback to our vision for the future," he said.

The agreement reached between Washington and Beijing on China's accession to the World Trade Organization is "in America's economic interests" and vital to the U.S. national security, Clinton noted.

With remarkable reductions in China's tariffs, he added, U.S. agricultural products can get full access to a fifth of the world's population, and so will the U.S. telecom firms and automakers.

Meanwhile, he called it "a false choice" that is set up between economic rights and human rights, or economic security and national security.

Clinton said his experience indicates that "this is time for the outstretched hand and constructive partnership" in dealing with China, which has in the past 20 years made progress in building a new economy and lifted more than 200 million people out of absolute poverty.

"If we pass this up, we will regret it for a generation. All of out successes and interests will be paying a price far greater than economic because of our rejection. We cannot allow this effort to fail," he said.

Clinton said that it would be a "terrible mistake" for the United States to totally reject "the profound decision and choice" made by the Chinese leaders. "We need to embrace their decision. Not only for our own interests, but for the long-term interests of the world," he added.

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