By  on May 18, 1994

WASHINGTON -- With President Clinton's decision on China's trade status expected soon, 106 members of the House wrote him Tuesday urging him to unconditionally renew that country's most-favored-nation status.

The House members, led by Reps. Jim Lightfoot (R., Iowa), a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, and Jim McDermott, chairman of the House Task Force on U.S.-China Policy, also advised the President to create a bilateral commission to help advance human rights in China.

"We view the creation of a bilateral human rights commission between the U.S. and China as a constructive and effective alternative to what has become the annual confrontation over renewal of China's MFN status," the letter said. The commission, the letter continued, could include government and private sector experts on human rights, as well as jurists and business and religious leaders.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D., Maine), an opponent of extending China's trade status, told reporters he planned to wait to introduce legislation to limit China's MFN until after the President made an announcement, noting that if Clinton made the "right" decision, he would not introduce his bill. He declined to specify what the right decision would be.

Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R., Kan.), in a speech Monday on the floor of the Senate, appealed to Clinton to grant an unconditional extension of China's MFN and said the President should admit that tying trade to human rights is a "policy that has failed."

With the administration wrestling with its decision on China's status, advocates of it in Congress, along with importers and retailers, are agitating for an unconditional extension of MFN and a separation of China's trade status from its human rights policies.

Opponents of MFN are recommending revocation of the trade privilege, or at the very least, withholding the low-tariff benefits on products made by state-owned factories.

The administration has given no sign of what its final decision will be, but some business lobbyists are expecting it could come as early as next week. China's MFN expires June 3.

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