Top Two House Democrats Oppose China's Trade Status

Article excerpt

Two Democratic leaders in the House have broken ranks with President Clinton over the renewal of China's trading status, on which the House is expected to vote in a week.

In addition, GOP presidential candidate Pat Buchanan yesterday began running TV ads urging Congress to vote down Mr. Clinton's renewal of most-favored-nation (MFN) trading status for China.

In a Tuesday letter to Secretary of State Warren Christopher, House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri said China's record on human rights, nuclear proliferation and trade is not improving, leading him to withdraw his support for China's most-favored-nation renewal for the first time.

"The status quo is simply not acceptable," Mr. Gephardt wrote. "This year's debate on MFN should be a referendum on all of China's policies, not just one issue or concern."

Minority Whip David E. Bonior of Michigan expressed a similar sentiment earlier this month, saying America shouldn't be in the "business of licensing torture."

The House is expected to vote next week on whether to block the renewal of most-favored-nation status for China. MFN status puts Chinese imports on the same low tariff schedule as most other U.S. trading partners. The United States confers the status on all but a handful of nations.

"There may well be more Democrats than Republicans [opposing MFN] with Bonior's and Gephardt's defection," said Kevin Kearns, president of a conservative coalition lobbying to stop the renewal. …