CHINA GIVEN PERMANENT NORMAL U.S. TRADE STATUS
President Bush granted China permanent normal trade status Dec. 27, ending a quarter-century policy of using access to U.S. markets as an annual enticement to the communist giant to expand political and economic freedoms.
The president's decision made a final act to yearly battles in Congress since 1980 that at times divided the Democratic Party during the Clinton years. It was set up by China's admission last month to the World Trade Organization.
Bush called the trade proclamation the "final step in normalizing U.S.-China trade relations" and said it would open up the vast Chinese markets to billions of dollars in American goods.
The new trade status takes effect Jan. 1, Bush said in the announcement released in Crawford, Texas, where he is vacationing.
"This is the final step in normalizing U.S.-China trade relations and welcoming China into a global, rules-based trading system," he said.
Since 1980, China has enjoyed temporary normal trade relations with the United States under annual presidential waivers of the law. But each waiver has triggered debates in Congress over China's record on human rights and weapons proliferation abuses.
The last one occurred in July, when the House voted 259-169 to approve Bush's waiver this year, the last that will be necessary.
Congress last year granted the permanent status to China contingent upon its entry into the WTO. Its application was accepted formally at the WTO's annual meeting lin November in the United Arab Emirates.
China and the United States reached an agreement, as part of China's WTO entry, that will lower China's tariffs on U.S. goods and open up its service sector to American companies.
China's tariffs on U.S.-made goods are to fall from an overall average of 25 percent to 9 percent by 2005. Duties on America's primary farm products are to drop from 31 percent to 14 percent.
China has an $80 billion trade surplus with the United States.
Bush argued that U.S.-China trade benefits both American farmers, who last year exported to China and Hong Kong goods worth more than $3 billion, and American business, which last year increased overall exports to China by 24 percent.