The prospect of Congress' requiring China to make new political concessions for continued U.S. trade benefits is expected to re-emerge early next year.
The odds are against Congress' acting on the issue this year, despite the House of Representatives' having overwhelmingly approved last week a bill to condition "most-favored-nation" treatment for China on Beijing's taking a series of political reforms.Congress is expected to recess, and quite possibly adjourn, by the weekend of Oct. 27-28. The Senate has not even held hearings on the House-passed China bill and, Senate sources indicated, it will put the China trade issue over to next year.
Even if the Senate were to act this week and send the bill to the White House, PresidentBush almost surely would "pocket veto" it after Congress has left, officials said. Such a veto could be overridden only if Congress returned here after the November elections - an uncertain prospect.
The House, which approved the bill, 384-30, apparently could easily override a veto but the extent of Senate support for the bill is unclear.
The China bill, as first introduced by Rep. Donald Pease, D-Ohio, would have created a set of new criteria for the president and Congress to consider in deciding whether to continue "most-favored-nation" status for China. Such status accords imports from China the same U.S. tariffs given the products of most other countries.
Those criteria included the termination of martial law in China, the release of Chinese detained after the June 1989 Tiananmen massacre, and a halt to the intimidation of Chinese citizens in the United States.
President Bush has opposed the bill but did not go so far as to say he would veto it. U.S. business groups also opposed the bill, though, some hinted, they might be able to "live with it."
But amendments the House tacked onto the bill Thursday - such as making most-favored-nation status conditional on the president's certifying the release of all prisoners taken after the Tiananmen Square massacre - are seen as clearly inviting a presidential veto.
The bill's big House majority, however, indicates that the House will take up the measure again early next year, congressional aides said.
Under U.S. law, the president and Congress must annually review China's most-favored-nation status, taking into account China's emigration practices.