The House voted yesterday to deny most favored nation trade status to China, but by a margin falling short of that needed to override President Bush's expected veto of the legislation.
As a fallback measure, lawmakers also adopted a bill that would require Bush to report to Congress on China's progress in improving its human rights record before he decides to extend MFN status in 1991.
The House approved the denial of MFN status for this year 247 to 174 and the second, conditional measure 384 to 30.
China has enjoyed trade benefits of MFN status -- which provides for the lowest tariffs charged to any U.S. trading partner -- since 1980. U.S. presidents have repeatedly granted China waivers of a 1974 law denying MFN status to communist nations that restrict emigration. Bush extended the waiver in May.
Yesterday's votes reflected congressional concern over human rights abuses in China stemming from the Chinese government's crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in June 1989.
The conditional MFN measure approved yesterday would require Bush to certify that China has made progress on a broad range of human rights issues, including an accounting of citizens detained during the pro-democracy demonstrations, ending of martial law in Tibet and easing of restrictions on freedom of the press.