The mainland's most favoured nation (MFN) trading status appears safe again this year, after receiving a boost from United States House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich. Although Mr Gingrich has led the Republican chorus of protest against US President Bill Clinton's trip to Beijing, he yesterday voiced his dissent with plans by some colleagues to strip the country of its trading privileges. 'There are no practical grounds for cutting off American producers, American agriculture, American companies,' he said. 'I would argue that if you believe in democracy it is better to have an American in China doing business than it is to cut the Chinese off from contact with the American people. 'I think that it will pass and . . . we may have a better vote than people expect.' Mr Gingrich added: 'The practical, common-sense reality is the more American people deal with Chinese people the faster we are going to move China to freedom.' The endorsement of Capitol Hill's most influential legislator will come as a relief to Mr Clinton, who renewed MFN status this month. There have been fears that the dispute over US satellite co-operation with Beijing threatened to make the trade-status vote much closer than in recent years. Other key Republicans also backed the administration's stance, saying they would vote against a resolution tabled by some members which would overturn Mr Clinton's renewal of MFN. 'I am opposed to this resolution because it essentially would terminate US trade relations with China, and extinguish our ability to improve the human rights situation there,' said House Ways and Means Committee chairman Bill Archer, as his panel voted to urge renewal of MFN. Another committee member, Philip Crane, said: 'As one of the world's oldest and most influential civilisations, China will not respond to shrill threats from Congress to extinguish trade.' The Secretary for Trade and Industry, Brian Chau Tak-hay, welcomed the committee's vote. 'Now I hope the Senate will also endorse it and get the question out of the way this year because this annual exercise is a bit of a minor irritation,' said Mr Chau. He warned that were MFN status to be revoked, any debate about the mainland's future membership of the World Trade Organisation would not be meaningful. The panel is also backing legislation which would change the name of MFN status to normal trading relations - reflecting the fact controversial trading partners such as the mainland do not receive special treatment under MFN. Only six nations, including Vietnam and North Korea, do not have MFN status.