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U.S. to send mission to China in March, Clinton says.

WASHINGTON, March 1 Kyodo

U.S. President Bill Clinton said Wednesday he will send a high-profile trade delegation, including two cabinet members, to China in March to smooth the way for congressional approval of a landmark trade agreement the United States struck with Beijing last November.

Commerce Secretary William Daley and Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman will go to Beijing along with dozens of congressional members, Clinton said in a speech delivered to Internet industry executives in Ashburn, a town in the Washington suburbs.

The president said the trade accord with Beijing is "a good deal for American workers, for American farmers, for American business."

"But the only way we can get this agreement is for Congress to give China permanent normal trading relations," he said.

Clinton said the trade deal would enable U.S. businesses to gain "unprecedented access to China's markets."

"This is one of the most important votes Congress will pass in this year and for many years to come," he said.

Congress has become increasingly wary of Clinton's proposal to grant China permanent most-favored-nation (MFN) trading status following Beijing's recent threat to use force against Taiwan if their reunification talks drag on indefinitely.

Congress has also balked at granting China the trading status the administration calls normal trade relations permanently, citing the country's human rights abuses.

Clinton said the delegation will meet with "religious leaders who are interested in change in China" as well as Chinese government officials and business leaders.

The president was indicating the delegation may meet with followers of the banned Falun Gong mediation movement.

"I don't believe it's right to crack down on people for their religious views or their political expression or because they want to be in an association like the Falun Gong," Clinton said.

The U.S. and China struck a market-opening agreement last November to pave the way for Beijing's accession to the World Trade Organization. Congress now must approve permanent MFN status for China.

Under the November agreement, Chinese tariffs in every sector, from telecommunications to agriculture, will fall by half or more in five years, Clinton said.

"For the first time, our companies will be able to sell and distribute products in China made by workers here at home, without transferring technology and manufacturing -- never happened before," the president said.

U.S. farmers, major backers of the trade deal, are concerned about whether it will have enough congressional support.

Many farm industry leaders visited Washington on Wednesday to appeal for early congressional backing of the trade deal.

Sam Moore, president of the Kentucky Farm Bureau, told the day's hearing by the Senate Agriculture Committee, "We urge Congress to grant permanent normal trading relations for China as soon as the vote can be scheduled."

"Farmers and ranchers are already hampered in developing export markets by our own unilateral sanctions and the unfair trading practices of other competing nations. We must ensure that we do not unilaterally disengage from this historic opportunity for American farmers and ranchers," said Moore, who raises corn, soybeans, wheat and cattle in Morgantown, Kentucky.

Jerry Kress, a wheat producer from America Falls, Idaho, told the same hearing, "In order for U.S. wheat producers to realize the full potential of the Chinese market, it is absolutely critical that Congress approves legislation to grant China permanent normal trading status as soon as possible."

Voting on the MFN bill is expected to take place this summer.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Mar 6, 2000
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