Bush improves China's trading status

CRAWFORD, Texas -- President Bush on Thursday extended permanent normal trade status to China, calling it "a final step in normalizing U.S.-China trade relations."

In a proclamation, Bush also formally declared that the 1974 Jackson-Vanik law no longer applies to China. The law denies normal trade relations with communist states that restrict emigration.

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 occurred in July, when the House voted 259-169 to approve Bush's waiver this year, the last that will be necessary because of China's recent entry into the World Trade Organization. Congress last year granted permanent trade status to China contingent upon its entry into the WTO.

The new trade status will take effect Jan. 1, Bush said in an 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.

China joined the World Trade Organization last month, a move Bush said would be "an important underpinning" for democratic reforms in the communist nation.

China and the United States have reached an agreement, as part of China's WTO entry, under which China will lower 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 currently enjoys an $80 billion trade surplus with the United States.

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