The United States House of Representatives approved a China trade bill on Wednesday that has divided human rights and religious freedom advocates. The House voted 237-197 to grant permanent normal trade relations to the communist nation, taking the place of Most Favored Nation (MFN) status, which required an annual review of China's adherence to international standards. The Senate is expected to approve a similar pact in early June.The bill grants China the same low tariffs and benefits given to most other U.S. trading partners and opens the way for its entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO).Organized labor sided with human rights activists who believe the U.S. should not give up the annual MFN status review, which was designed to pressure China to improve its treatment of workers, dissidents, and religious believers. Supporters of permanent normal trade relations (PNTR), in contrast, argue that the new trade pact will accelerate economic reform, benefiting U.S. companies, but also fostering political reform and improvement of China's human rights situation.Members of Congress evoked the names of religious clerics, such as Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and Protestant evangelist Billy Graham, to bolster their arguments in favor of the bill in floor debates on Wednesday. Following a trade agreement between the European Union and China last week, the Dalai Lama declared that "it is absolutely wrong to isolate China."Prominent Chinese dissident Dai Qing argued that human rights issues cannot be properly addressed until China's state monopoly is broken up. "To do that we need a freer market and the competition mandated by the WTO," he told The Washington Post before the vote.Other well-known dissidents, however, ...1
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