|USA||BISHOPS BLAST CLINTON'S TRADE DEAL WITH CHINA|
US Catholic bishops have called on Congress to reject President Bill Clinton's landmark trade pact with Beijing because of concerns about human rights and religious freedom, according to a letter released Friday.
Cardinal Bernard Law, chairman of the US Catholic Conference's committee on international policy, said China's human rights record has deteriorated and urged lawmakers to "send a clear signal" to Beijing.
"As long as the Chinese leadership steadfastly refuses to abide by the universal norms of human rights protection, the United States should not grant normal trade relations on a permanent basis," Law said in a letter to lawmakers.
"Instead, we should retain the valuable option provided by annual review of China's compliance with fundamental norms," he added in the letter, dated 12 April.
The trade agreement, which paves the way for China's entry into the Geneva-based World Trade Organization (WTO), calls on Beijing to open a wide range of markets, from agriculture to telecommunications.
In exchange for China opening its markets, President Bill Clinton says Congress must grant Beijing permanent normal trade relations (NTR) -- a status that would guarantee Chinese goods the same low-tariff access to U.S. markets as products from nearly every other nation.