Despite numerous delays
and roadblocks from right-wing and anti-China senators, the yes votes totalled 83 to only
15 against China. The party split was mostly even. Of the total, 37 of the yes votes were
Democrats to 46 Republicans.
Before the final vote, arch conservative octogenarian Senators Robert Byrd and Jesse Helms
took time on the Senate floor to condemn China. His hand shaking nervously,
Senator Byrd concluded his remarks by saying "mark my words, we'll be taken to
the cleaners." Jesse Helms, who spoke at length of how he has been interested
in the Chinese people since he was a "little boy" called China a "brutal dictatorship"
and compared its government to Nazi Germany. At left is a list of the 15 anti-China votes cast
listed alphabetically by American state.
The Senate bill now goes to President Clinton for signature. Clinton held a press conference after
the vote and stressed the economic benefits for both sides once the trade agreement
goes into effect and China joins the WTO.
President Clinton's views were echoed by business leaders
throughout the US. Marc Lackritz, president of the Securities Industry Association said the decision will "open a new frontier of opportunity for US investors and
securities firms." Excitement about the impending new era in US-China relations was
echoed by groups ranging from the American Farm Bureau to the
Information Technology Industry Council.
In a statement, the American Farm Bureau president said "Today's Senate vote to extend permanent normal trade relations to China is a major victory
for America's farmers and ranchers. The increased farm exports that will result from this
agreement, and China's membership in the World Trade Organization, will help boost our sagging
farm economy and benefit Chinese consumers."
Reaction from China was positive but cautious. The Chinese WTO delegation, led by chief
negotiator Long Yongtu was in Geneva at the time the vote was recorded, working on the long process to China's accession
to the WTO.
China is now the fourth largest US trading partner. For full details on the impact of the US-China
trade agreement and what it means to American businesses, read our special report.
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