WASHINGTON — President Clinton met Wednesday with separate contingents from the House and Senate that expressed opposing views on extending China’s Most-Favored-Nation trade status.

Meanwhile, retailers are becoming more evident in the China trade debate here. Frank Williams, vice president of corporate affairs for May Department Stores Co., St. Louis, visited two Congressional offices early Wednesday to make the case for maintaining China’s trade benefits.

Clinton has until June 4 to decide whether to seek approval from Congress to extend China’s MFN, a benefit that allows its exports to be shipped to the U.S. under low tariffs.

In a morning meeting with Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D., Maine), the President heard that China has not done enough toward improving its human rights policies to warrant an extension of its trade status.

In the late afternoon, Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.), chairman of the Senate Trade Subcommittee and an advocate of granting China MFN status permanently, met with Clinton. Baucus was accompanied by at least six other legislators.

Afterward, Baucus said: “We told the President we had to establish good solid relations with China. He has a realistic assessment of the situation.”

On Capitol Hill, May Co.’s Williams met with staffers for Reps. J.J. Pickle (D., Tex.), and Barbara Kennelly (D., Conn.), members of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade matters in the House. Robert Hall, vice president of government affairs for the National Retail Federation, said he is meeting weekly with a House group led by Rep. Robert Matsui (D., Calif.), to generate support for China MFN.

Under an executive order signed by Clinton last year, China must make significant improvement in its human rights policies to merit MFN extension this year.

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