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Friday, 19 May, 2000, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
US shift on China vote
US capitol building
Key Congress vote on trade with China is looming
Republican leaders in the US congress are predicting that a key legislation giving China permanent trade privileges will pass into law next week after reaching an agreement to monitor China's human rights record.

The statement comes after the European Union and China signed a key trade deal on Friday, paving Beijing's entry to the World Trade Organisation.

Greenspan rarely speaks on trade issues
Greenspan rarely speaks on trade issues
"I am very confident that with this package that we've now put together, and the agreement that was struck this morning between China and the European Union, that we will be able to have the votes necessary for a strong victory," said David Dreier, Congressman from California.

The Republican leadership has chosen Mr Dreier to round up votes for the legislation.

A key US congressional committee has already given its support to the bill which would clear the way for Chinese membership of the World Trade Organisation.

Supporters and opponents of the legislation alike are describing next week's vote as one of the most important in generations.

Greenspan support

President Clinton
The business community has a strong ally in President Clinton
It will determine US attitudes towards protectionism and free trade.

The bill's importance was demonstrated earlier this week when Alan Greenspan, the head of the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, publicly backed the legislation.

It is unusual for Mr Greenspan to speak on trade policy issues, but he described the China vote as one with "profound implications".

The legislation would confirm last year's trade deal between Washington and Beijing, which promised improved access for American goods to the Chinese market. In return the United States would support China's bid to become a member of the World Trade Organisation.

United States Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky signs the China trade pact
Trade groups have praised US trade representative Charlene Barshefsky's deal with China
Opponents of that deal, who question China's commitment to enforcing human rights and labour standards, are trying to undermine that agreement by refusing to grant China permanent normal trading relations with the USA.

President Bill Clinton, who is facing opposition to the legislation from his own party, has made supporting the trade bill the top priority of his remaining months in office.

Nationwide broadcast

"I believe that a 'No' vote invites a future of dangerous confrontation and constant insecurity", he said on Thursday.

A protestor carries a sign decrying China's stance towards Taiwan
The business community has had to counter criticism of China
"It also by the way forfeits the largest market in the world for our goods and services and gives Europe and Japan all those benefits we negotiated to bring American jobs here at home."

He plans to address the nation on Sunday to argue his case.

His campaign is being backed by US business leaders who have organised coast-to-coast lobbying efforts.

The latest poll shows a virtual dead-heat between firm supporters and opponents, with almost 80 Congressmen describing themselves as undecided.

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See also:

19 May 00 | Business
EU-China agree trade deal
17 May 00 | Business
Bush backs China trade deal
10 May 00 | Business
US trade battleground
06 Apr 00 | Americas
Lockheed faces China trade charges
18 May 00 | Business
Business lobbies hard on China
19 May 00 | Business
Analysis: China's WTO hopes
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