Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Newt Gingrich Backs off on Linking China Trade Status to Hong Kong

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Newt Gingrich Backs off on Linking China Trade Status to Hong Kong

Article excerpt

Following the lead of Hong Kong's democratic leaders, House Speaker Newt Gingrich pulled back Sunday on a proposal to link favored trade status with China to its behavior toward Hong Kong.

Gingrich, R-Ga., also said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he had considered resigning from the speakership when his ethic problems reached a peak last winter. And he defended the balanced budget deal reached with the White House, chiding conservatives who say it compromises their principles.

In about a month, Congress must take up President Bill Clinton's expected decision to extend normal trading status to China for another year. Such a move ensures low tariffs on Chinese goods. Members of Congress are concerned about political rights in Hong Kong after the British colony reverts to Chinese control on July 1. Gingrich has supported two proposals - either to put off a vote until this fall to give China a chance to show its good intentions or extend the trade status for only three or six months until the situation in Hong Kong is clearer. But Hong Kong leaders, including Chris Patten, its British governor, and pro-democracy politicians such as Martin Lee, have come out strongly against using trade status as a leverage against Beijing. "All of them favor extension for a full year, and it's a little much for us to say, we're more in favor of Hong Kong than the people of Hong Kong," Gingrich said. "So there's a powerful countervailing argument that the people of Hong Kong themselves want economic stability as they go through this transition." In the past, Gingrich has supported most-favored-nation trade status. He said he wanted that normal trade relationship to continue with a broader approach to show U.S. concerns about China's human rights record. The State Department says Beijing has stifled all dissent on the mainland. …

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