Another 'Gotcha!' for China’s Trading Hopes?

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There are times when the Chinese like surprises. During fireworks, for example. But not during trade negotiations. Beijing already had one "gotcha" last spring when president Clinton balked at admitting the nation to the World Trade Organization. Entry to the organization is a huge issue for the Chinese, who hope it would boost their economy and end the fiery annual fight over most-favored-nation status.

China’s leaders may be in for another surprise. This week Chinese negotiators are due in Washington to reopen WTO talks. A top Chinese diplomat told TIME that Beijing believes accession has been pretty much "agreed upon" by the U.S. and China. But soon after the Chinese negotiators arrive in the capital, House majority whip Tom Delay is planning to wave a red flag, introducing a pro-Taiwan arms resolution on the House floor. Other GOP leaders, including Senate majority leader Trent Lott, have also signaled that politics is not right for a China vote this year. And though that may tempt the Administration to back off WTO again, the White House will most likely stay the course. Clinton does not want to send the Chinese home with another nasty surprise.