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|Saturday, June 03, 2000, updated at 16:38(GMT+8)|
Clinton Seeks China Trade Status ExtensionPresident Bill Clinton asked Congress on Friday to extend China's trade benefits temporarily until Beijing becomes a full-fledged member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The request was required under US law despite the passage of permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) for China by the House of Representatives on May 24. The Senate is expected to vote on PNTR later this month.
The temporary extension was needed because permanent normal trade relations status will not take effect until Beijing becomes a member of the Geneva-based WTO. China's accession is not expected to take place until later this year.
"This is a stopgap measure until PNTR is enacted," an administration official explained.
Clinton also asked for 12-month extensions for Vietnam and Belarus.
Under current law, the president must ask Congress for a one-year extension of China's normal trade relations status by June 3. That sets the stage for a vote in the House if any lawmaker demands one.
Given the House's 237-197 vote in favour of PNTR, Clinton administration officials said there was no need for a vote on the temporary extension. The leading opponent of PNTR, Michigan Democratic Representative David Bonior, agreed that no vote was needed. "It's a formality," Bonior's spokesman said.
"While today's action was technically required by law, the strong bipartisan support last week for expanding trade with China offers Congress the option to avoid re-debating this technical waiver in the next month," said House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, a California Republican who helped round up votes for the landmark China trade bill.
"We'll be exploring our options in a bipartisan manner in the coming weeks," Dreier added.
Once PNTR is approved by the Senate and China joins the WTO, Clinton will no longer need to seek annual extensions because China would receive the trade benefits on a permanent basis.
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