Byline: Joyce Barrett

WASHINGTON — Members of a business coalition seeking to protect China’s trade privileges met with their backers in the House Tuesday to gauge their opposition.
At a closed-door meeting in the Capitol, business representatives, including those from retailing, met with Reps. David Dreier (R., Calif.) and Jim Kolbe (R., Ariz.). Rep. Bob Matsui (D., Calif.), was invited but was unable to attend; however, Matsui will be working with the business group on mustering House support for renewing China’s most-favored-nation status.Kolbe and Dreier admitted that if the administration seeks to extend China MFN, as expected, this year, it will be a tough battle to secure House passage.
The 73 House Republican freshmen, who have never voted on China’s trade status before, are expected to be the toughest to convince on extending the coveted trade privileges.
Fall elections also are expected to complicate deliberations, Dreier predicted. With U.S. trade policies under scrutiny in the presidential campaign, the China debate is expected to draw heightened attention this year.
China is not making it easy on the U.S. to extend it the privilege of the lowest tariffs available. It is threatening military action against Taiwan, has been caught trafficking in nuclear weapons and has continued policies that offend human rights policies in the West.
MFN is the primary tool of the U.S. to change China’s behavior, Dreier said, adding that it is critical for business to rally behind Congressional efforts to extend MFN again.
“We need to make sure we proceed with strong support,” Dreier said. He said the coalition needed to convey to all members of the House that U.S. jobs relied on export business to China.
Kolbe acknowledged that the battle in the House over MFN would be much tougher than the one to be waged in the Senate. He likened the pending House battle to “an old war horse that’s been around a long time.” He added, “I don’t know how much opposition there is, but I’m not prepared to write off China’s MFN.”
The National Retail Federation has made preserving China MFN its top priority this year and is planning a comprehensive educational campaign aimed at members of Congress.

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