CHINA / National

Trip kicks off critical US-China period
Updated: 2006-03-20 08:02

They also doubt it would accomplish its goal, fearing it could boost prices for U.S. consumers if companies don't shift to other foreign suppliers after tariffs are imposed.

"We just feel it's the wrong approach, although we all share the same goal," said John Frisbie, president of the U.S.-China Business Council.

Schumer and Graham first offered the bill as an amendment to other Senate legislation nearly a year ago, when it unexpectedly survived an attempt to kill it by a vote of 67-33.

Since that watershed event, there have been a series of deadlines for another vote on the bill, and each time the senators have agreed to give China more time to act.


Still, many experts doubt the Graham-Schumer bill would make it through the U.S. House of Representatives and be signed into law by President George W. Bush, even if it passes the Senate in its current form.

"I think the chances are rather slim," said Ed Gresser, trade policy director at the Progressive Policy Institute. "This would be a very major violation of WTO ( World Trade Organization) obligations and interfere with the fastest-growing U.S. export market as well as the fastest growing source of imports."

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, has also announced plans for a bipartisan China bill that could reduce support for the Graham-Schumer legislation and give senators an alternative, said Greg Mastel, chief international trade advisor at Miller and Chevalier,

But others said it was easy to imagine a scenario where Schumer and Graham return disappointed from the trip and push for a straight up-or-down vote.

The House could follow suit if a high-level U.S.-China trade meeting set for April 11 in Washington goes badly and there is no further progress on currency reform by Hu's visit in late April.

"It's an election year and the trade balance keeps getting worse," said Frank Vargo, vice president for international economic affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers, citing two factors driving the Graham-Schumer bill.

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