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American Congress Votes To Extend Trade With China

September 21, 2000

The United States Senate yesterday voted 83-15 in favour of a bill to establish normal trading relations with China. The bill, passed earlier this year in the House of Representatives by 237-197, will now be signed into law by President Clinton. Mr. Clinton lobbied hard to have the measure passed.

For the past 20 years, the United States has reviewed its trading relations with China on an annual basis. Each review has been accompanied by vigorous debate on China's record on religious freedom and human rights.

The bipartisan vote is particularly note-worthy given its closeness to the forthcoming presidential election.

The establishment of normal trade relations will result in a major expansion of the market for American goods, in the words of the President, "from wheat to cars to consulting services". In the past year, the United States sold $13 billion worth of goods to China, but imported $82 billion worth of Chinese-made goods.

The passage of the bill paves the way for China to complete its arrangements to join the World Trade Organisation. This 135-member organisation is the group that sets the rules for global trade and commerce. It has been suggested that China's admission to the WTO represents one of the most significant developments of globalisation in recent years.

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