WASHINGTON — Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) lifted his hold on the nomination of Susan Schwab as U.S. Trade Representative after he and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) met with the trade chief designate Wednesday, clearing the way for the Senate to vote as early as this week.

Schumer, whose state is home to the country’s premier financial services firms, delayed a vote in the Senate before Congress adjourned for a weeklong Memorial Day recess at the end of May. He was concerned the Bush administration is not being tough enough on trade issues with China, particularly in the financial services area.

After a meeting with Schwab, Schumer said he was satisfied by her position on China.

“She has convinced both of us that she will be a very strong voice on opening up China’s markets to financial services, that she will not take the usual guff after Jan. 1, 2007, when China is required by the WTO to open up those markets, and I’m going to release my hold and urge everybody to vote for her,” Schumer said shortly after the meeting.

Asked what Schwab said to change his mind, Schumer said: “She said she is going to be strong, she said she is going to be tough and she understands economic issues are paramount.”

Schumer said he also would support a unanimous consent agreement, which would bring her nomination to the floor without debate.

Graham, who has said all along that he supports Schwab’s nomination, said he hopes “slowing down her nomination … will speed up progress in China” in terms of curbing unfair trade practices.

“I do believe she’s gotten the message,” said Graham. “She will be a strong advocate and time will tell if we are successful. We’re watching.”

The two senators, who have introduced legislation to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese imports if China does not let the yuan’s value increase in relation to the dollar, sent a letter to Schwab before the Congressional recess asking her how the administration plans to press China on its commitments to opening up the country’s financial services market to U.S. companies.

This story first appeared in the June 8, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

They said they were satisfied with both Schwab’s written responses and her answers during Wednesday’s short meeting.

President Bush nominated Schwab, who is deputy USTR, in April to replace Rob Portman, who has moved to the White House as director of the Office of Management & Budget.

Schwab did not make any statements after the meeting with the two senators, but a spokeswoman said Schwab had a “good and productive meeting” with Schumer and Graham.

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