Washington President Bush asked Congress to extend for a year China's normal trade relations with the United States because they are beneficial to the American economy and imperative to promoting an "economically open, politically stable and secure China."
In a letter to House and Senate leaders, Bush formally requested on Friday extension of the trade status that China and "virtually every other country in the world" now enjoys.
Bush outlined his argument that U.S.-China trade benefits both American farmers, who last year exported more than $3 billion in goods to China and Hong Kong, and American business, which last year increased overall exports to China by 24 percent.
"Trade is in the interests of American consumers, especially those who live from paycheck to paycheck and depend on inexpensive goods from China to enhance their quality of life," Bush said in a statement.
"Fair trade is essential not only to improving living standards for Americans but also for a strong and productive relationship with China."
The president's action was not a surprise. Bush has long supported trade with Beijing, even during the standoff over a U.S. spy plane that collided with a Chinese jet fighter and made an emergency landing on Chinese territory.
Bush alluded to that controversy Friday: "The United States has a huge stake in the emergence of an economically open, politically stable and secure China. Recent events have shown not only that we need to speak frankly and directly about our differences, but that we also need to maintain dialogue and cooperate with one another on those areas where we have common interests."
After a major fight last year, Congress passed legislation granting China permanent normal trade relations with the United States, which set tariffs on Chinese products at the same low levels as virtually every other U.S. trading partner's. The action scrapped annual reviews of China's trade benefits.
The permanent trade status does not go into effect until China becomes a member of the World Trade Organization, however, and that has been delayed for months by inability of negotiators in Geneva, Switzerland, to complete final details.
The annual debate over China's trade status is used by opponents of U.S.-China engagement as a forum for public objections to Chinese policies on human rights and Taiwan.