February 3, 2006

Top senator considering China bill, aide says

By Doug Palmer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Finance Committee Chairman
Charles Grassley could offer legislation this year to address
growing trade concerns with China, an aide to the senator said
on Friday.

"At this time, Sen. Grassley is evaluating ... constructive
proposals to enhance our trade relations with China," the
Grassley aide said.

Grassley, whose committee has jurisdiction over trade
issues, played a key role last year in blocking a Senate bill
threatening China with across-the-board tariffs.

But Grassley expressed frustration earlier this week that
Beijing has not moved more quickly to a market-determined
exchange rate, after making a step in that direction in July.

"It's important for them to actually carry out what they
say they're going to do. So if they're going to float their
currency, I want to see it bobbing around on the ocean," the
Iowa Republican told Reuters in an interview.

Concern over the huge and growing U.S. trade deficit with
China is expected to be high on Washington's agenda this year.

The U.S. Commerce Department is expected to release final
2005 figures next week showing the U.S. trade gap with China
set a new record above $200 billion.

The U.S. Trade Representative's office also is expected
this month to release the long-awaited results of a
top-to-bottom review of trade relations with China.

Grassley is waiting to see the results of that study before
making a final decision on legislation, his aide said.

"We hope that there will be a more balanced debate on the
details on our relationship with China, the pros and the cons,"
the Grassley aide said at an off-the-record discussion on the
congressional trade agenda.

Grassley's office later gave permission for the speaker to
be quoted and identified as a Grassley aide.

The House of Representatives passed legislation last year
aimed at several China trade irritants. However, Grassley
refused to move a similar bill in the Senate.