BUSH GO-AHEAD ON TRADE BENEFITS FOR CHINA LIKELY

BUSH GO-AHEAD ON TRADE BENEFITS FOR CHINA LIKELY

President Bush is expected to announce this week his support for continued U.S. trade benefits for China.

The president, said Republican legislators who met with him Tuesday, is ''tilting" toward renewing China's "most favored nation" status and is likely to announce a decision before Congress recesses Friday for the Memorial Day holiday.Most favored nation status assures China of the same low U.S. tariffs accorded to most other countries. It also is a precondition for U.S. Export- Import Bank financing and U.S. government investment guarantees through the Overseas Private Investment Corp.

Reports that Mr. Bush has decided to renew China's most favored nation benefits brought quick approval from the business community.

Jerry Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, called it a "very positive development."

Not extending the benefits to China would be "a throwback to an era when we used trade sanctions in a silly way," he said.

Under U.S. law, China's trade treatment is linked to its emigration policies and is subject to an annual review by the president and Congress.

If the president finds that most favored nation treatment will help improve China's emigration policies, he normally recommends a one year extension of the trade benefits. Congress may vote against this finding. But it would need a two-thirds majority in both houses to override the president and deny the benefits.

A presidential decision to continue China's most favored nation treatment is supported by most key Republicans in Congress, Rep. Robert Michel, R-Ill., the House minority leader, said Tuesday.

Rep. Michel, however, was cautious about how Congress would react to such a decision.

"I wouldn't want to bring it up this afternoon," he told reporters.

Sen. George Mitchell, D-Maine, the Senate majority leader, last week urged Mr. Bush not to renew the Chinese trade benefits. So far, however, Rep. Tom Foley, D-Wash., the House majority leader, has been quiet on the issue.

Whether the president, in supporting most favored nation treatment for China, would condition it on the Chinese government's undertaking human rights reforms, was left unclear at Tuesday's meeting, legislators said.

But Rep. Michel said he would advise against any special conditions. Otherwise, he added, "you get into bargaining over how much" to demand.

Under the law, the president has until June 3 to announce his decision on China.