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Bush Seeks To Extend Trade Privileges to China

May 27, 1991

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ President Bush announced Monday that he will ask Congress to extend most- favored-nation trade benefits to Beijing for another year, calling it ″the best chance of changing Chinese behavior.″

But administration officials said Bush also was moving to retaliate against China for providing long-range missiles to Pakistan by clamping down on sales of high-tech equipment and computers. The offsetting move appeared designed to make the package more palatable to congressional critics.

Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine, denounced Bush’s move and promised a fight in Congress to block the unconditional extension.

Speaking at Yale University, his alma mater, Bush said he knew that renewing the trade privileges would be controversial, as it was a year ago. But he said that to revoke them would punish China and stifle movements there toward democratic and market reforms.

″We will not be able to advance our cause or resist repression if we pull back and declare that China is simply too impure a place for us,″ Bush said.

Bush said the United States had been the first nation to impose economic sanctions on China after the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989 and ″now we are the last, alone among the western democracies, to keep those original sanctions in place.″

Mitchell, speaking with reporters before a Memorial Day parade in Portland, Maine, called Bush’s proposed new sanctions ″a joke″ and said, ″What is especially offensive ... is that he seeks to clothe what is an immoral policy in moral terms.″

″I’m sure the Chinese communist leaders are right at this moment celebrating,″ said Mitchell, who has introduced legislation to give China most-favored-nation status only if they make improvements in human rights and other changes within six months.

Bush, a 1948 Yale graduate and captain of the baseball team his senior year, also was given an honorary doctorate degree by the university. It was his first visit here as president.

The president’s remarks drew scattered boos and hisses from among the 2,850 graduates and Bush took note of protest signs such as ’Bush Equals Hitler,″ and ″Honored for 100,000 Deaths.″

The president delighted his audience by spewing out a long phrase in halting Latin. ″That means if you’re holding a sign, you can’t throw eggs,″ he translated.

Bush said he would send the trade-benefits extension to Congress later in the week. It would continue the low-tariff trade status that the United States has bestowed on China since June 1980.

Congress has 90 days in which it can block the renewal.

Senior administration officials accompanying Bush briefed reporters on the accompan controls on sensitive exports to China.

These include blocking the sale of $30 million in pending high-speed and super computers to China and a crackdown on any technology that could be used for missiles, including satellite parts and technology.

One senior official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the new sanctions were being imposed to protest China’s providing of missiles to Pakistan.

The official said the crackdown could have a ″pretty substantial impact″ on China’s space program.

Bush told his audience that the preferential trade status, which the United States bestows on nearly all its major trading partners, ″is not ‘special,’ it is not a favor. It is the ordinary basis of trade worldwide.″

″The real point is to pursue a policy that has the best chance of changing Chinese behavior,″Bush said.

Administration critics in Congress say they will try to block the extension of the trade privilege because of Beijing’s hard-line policies on dissidents and trade.

″It sends a signal that we really do have a double standard when it comes to human rights - one for the Soviet Union, Cuba, Vietnam ... and another for China,″ said Rep. Stephen Solarz, D-N.Y., chairman of a House subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.

But the president argued: ″It is wrong to isolate China if we hope to influence China.″

Despite the new sanctions, Bush included no human-rights conditions in his trade-benefits proposal.

He said that to weigh down the trade benefits with sweeping conditions was ″not wise ... not in the best interests of our country ... and it is not moral.″

Bush received a standing ovation when he was given the honorary degree.

The president reminded his audience that President John F. Kennedy had received an honorary degree here in 1962 and had cracked that he had the ″best of both worlds - a Harvard education and a Yale degree.″

″He had it wrong,″ Bush said. ″I got the best of both worlds - a Yale education and a Yale degree.″

Bush reminisced about his own graduation from Yale in 1948. ″Like so many of my classmates, I had come to Yale fresh from war - ready to make up for lost time,″ he said.

He said he and his wife, Barbara, ″spent a good part of my senior year thinking about becoming farmers. True story.″

″In the end we decided against the whole idea. We realized that when it came to pigs or chicken or cattle or corn, we didn’t know the first thing about farming. So, of course, there was only one alternative: I’d become an oilman instead.″

University officials said more than 14,000 people attended the graduation.

After his speech, Bush, who keeps his first baseman’s glove in the White House, was reunited with his baseball coach at Yale, Joe Rossomando.

″He was an adequate hitter″ with the bat but ″a .500 hitter as a leader,″ Rossomando told reporters.

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