DECISION ON CHINA’S TRADE STATUS DELAYED
Byline: Joanna Ramey
WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R., Miss.) said Tuesday he expects to put off until September a Senate vote on making China’s trade status permanent.
Supporters of China being granted Permanent Normal Trade Relations status, or PNTR, are concerned a delay might lessen its chances of passing. The House has already approved PNTR, a key step in China’s bid to join the World Trade Organization.
Lott, in comments to reporters, said the PNTR bill could face a filibuster or other delays if it were brought to a vote this month, before Congress adjourns for its August recess. Lawmakers are scheduled to return in September, before adjourning at month’s end for the rest of the year.
“It would be very hard to get a final vote on PNTR before the recess,” Lott said. “I don’t believe delay is dangerous+ The overwhelming majority of the Senate is for PNTR.”
The holdup has been procedural. Sen. Fred Thompson (R., Tenn.) wants a vote prior to PNTR on his bill that would levy sanctions on China for selling nuclear capabilities to rogue nations. Discussions among Senate Republicans, Democrats and the administration over how the bill should proceed broke off this week.
Meanwhile, absent PNTR, the House voted Tuesday to disapprove a measure that would block the annual renewal of China’s normal trade relations status. The 147 to 281 vote was expected, particularly in light of House passage in May of PNTR on a 237-197 vote.
Blocking annual renewal of China’s trade status “would have complicated the vote for permanent NTR in the Senate and damage the already sensitive U.S.-China relationship,” said Tracy Mullin, president of the National Retail Federation, in a statement.
“A stable trade relationship with China provides important benefits to American consumers and the U.S. economy,” Mullin said. “It allows us to address the legitimate issues of national security and human rights with the Chinese and to help clear the path for China’s membership in the World Trade Organization.”