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 You are in: Special Report: 1999: 11: 99: Battle for Free Trade
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The BBC's Duncan Hewitt reports on the trade deal being signed
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The BBC's John Terrett describes the business implications for China
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The BBC's Adam Brookes: "Membership of the WTO will change China's economy forever"
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US President Bill Clinton gives his reaction to the agreement
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Wednesday, 24 November, 1999, 15:03 GMT
US business eyes Chinese market
The deal follows 13 years of talks

By the BBC's Kevin Anderson in Washington

Agricultural and business interests in the US have mobilised to ensure approval of a new trade pact between China and the US.

The battle for free trade
The US business community see the world's most populous country as potentially their most profitable market, and US agricultural interests hope an open Chinese market could help pull the farm economy out of its present slump.

Congress would need to pass permanent normal trade relations, instead of reviewing most favoured trading status on an annual basis, according to a spokesman for the office of the US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky, which negotiated the pact.

The USTR spokesman was upbeat about the chances of congressional approval of permanent normal trade relations.

Business groups on the offensive

Major US business groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable , a group of US Chief Executive Officers, are expected to throw their considerable weight behind the agreement.

The US Chamber of Commerce is reviewing the agreement, but said if the agreement is one US business can support, the group will launch a major lobbying campaign in support of China's entry into the WTO and permanent Normal Trade Relations for China.

"American business will explain to Congress the tremendous benefits that China's entry into the WTO would mean for this country in terms of future economic growth and job creation," said United States Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue Donohue.

Businesses back deal

The business groups are expected to call on companies such as Boeing, the leading US exporter with $26.5m in exports in 1998.

China is expected to become the world's largest market for jets. The country is expected to buy $120bn in commercial jets over the next 20 years.

Boeing has long been a supporter of China's bid to join the WTO if the terms were "fair to all parties."

"The agreement to bring China into the World Trade Organisation creates an enormous opportunity for American workers and farmers to build a better future for themselves and their families," said Boeing Chief Executive Phil Condit.

"It opens up vast new markets for US goods and services, and I have supreme confidence that America's highly skilled and productive workforce will win substantial new business in those markets in the years to come," he said.

Mr Condit urged Congress to ratify the pact "so that the US can reap the full benefits of this market-opening agreement."

A billion hungry mouths

As part of the pact, China has agreed to cut agricultural import tariffs by between 14.5% and 15%, according to US trade officials.

Many American farm groups have long been in favour of China's entrance into the WTO as part of opening that market to their goods, and the trade pact has given a new focus to their efforts.

"We certainly are in favour of China's ascension into the WTO, and whatever it takes to get it done, we will be in favour of doing that," said Chris Noun, a spokesman for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Whether its Congressional approval of permanent normal trade relations or new efforts by the administration, his group will support those efforts.

The huge untapped Chinese market holds great promise for American farmers and the farm sector, which has been one of the few parts of the US economy left behind by the big boom.

"It's a new market. There are over a billion consumers in China. Their ability to afford higher quality food products, processed food products and raw products is growing, and frankly, American farmers need another market," Mr Noun said.

The US agricultural economy has been in crisis in part due to collapse of Asian export markets during the regional economic downtown in 1998.

"It's going to take a long time for American agriculture to recover from the Asian flu, but every market helps," he said.

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See also:
15 Nov 99 |  The Economy
China deal to boost economy
18 May 99 |  The Economy
WTO: Policing world trade
04 Aug 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
WTO: A history of free trade
14 Sep 99 |  The Economy
China's growth to slow

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