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Thursday, 4 May, 2000, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Enforcement plan to appease China critics
clothing factory
US unions fear cheap imports from China
The US government has put forward a tough new plan to ensure that China complies with any trade deal agreed with the United States.

The plan is in response to the growing criticism of the Administration's deal to admit China to the World Trade Organisation, in return for increased investment concessions for US firms.

Although Congress does not have the power to block this deal, a fierce battle is developing over a related provision in US trade law which requires an annual appraisal of China's human rights record before granting it normal trade relations.

The administration wants to abolish this provision, while critics say that will give China a free ride to abuse human rights.

Under the new plan, a new watchdog committee would be established to monitor human rights and labour rights in China, while the US would establish a "rapid response team" to monitor Chinese compliance under a regime of "accelerated investigations".

US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky told Congress that it was "the largest monitoring and enforcement for any agreement ever."

"We will relentlessly monitor and enforce China's compliance," she added.

Close vote expected

The US Congress is expected to vote on whether to grant China Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) in the week of 22-26 May, and the vote in the House of Representatives is considered too close to call.

"We don't have the votes, nor does the other side have the votes to stop this," conceded US Commerce Secretary William Daley.

Critics, including many Congressional Democrats, say the plan does not go far enough.

The Democratic whip, David Bonior, said the plan was "a desperate gesture to sell this flawed China deal that is floundering in Congress".

And the AFL-CIO, the US trade union federation which is opposing the deal, said that the proposed enforcement mechanisms did not go far enough.

"It still does not address the human rights abuses, and (the fact that) we give up any economic leverage if China continues to abuse its workers," a spokeswoman said.

But Sandor Levin, the Michigan Democrat who had originally proposed such a watchdog commission, said the plan could swing another 20 Democrats over to supporting the trade deal, enough to ensure its passage through Congress.

Meanwhile, in a sign that the pro-free trade forces were gaining ground, House and Senate negotiators reached agreement on a new trade pact which would allow African, Caribbean and Central American countries to gain greater duty-free access to US markets.

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See also:

13 Jan 00 | Business
US battle over China intensifies
09 Mar 00 | Business
Clinton pushes trade with China
15 Nov 99 | The Economy
WTO hails China deal
15 Nov 99 | The Economy
US business eyes Chinese market
04 Aug 99 | Battle for Free Trade
WTO: A history of free trade
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