Trade sanctions may be eased for Clinton visit

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 April, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 April, 1998, 12:00am

The United States will consider dropping some of its remaining trade sanctions against Beijing when President Bill Clinton visits China this summer, a senior envoy has said.

Ambassador to Beijing James Sasser provided the strongest public hint yet in a speech in New York that Mr Clinton would ease the restrictions as a goodwill gesture during his June visit.

The sanctions were imposed after the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989.

However, dropping even one of the sanctions would be controversial, and relaxing them all could prove politically impossible.

The sanctions include a ban on the sale of military hardware to China, on the export of some sensitive dual-use technology and on federal agencies such as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation from providing services - including political risk insurance - to US companies for deals in China.

Pressure is growing on Washington from the business community for an end to the sanctions, but the White House has for some time been loath to give up its only remaining leverage over China's human rights conduct.

The extent of the debate going on in the Government on the issue became apparent two months ago, when it appeared permission was going to be given for an easing of the 1989 sanctions to allow Sikorsky to ship replacement parts for military helicopters it sold to China during the 1980s. However, the sale was blocked at the last minute.

Mr Sasser said both sides were still working on an agenda for the June summit, but predicted talks would centre on proliferation, human rights, trade and moves to sign new business contracts in China for US firms.