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WASHINGTON (AP) - In a united stand, three former presidents today joined President Clinton in giving Congress a strong push to grant China permanent trade benefits. The pact also won an endorsement from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.
``In economic terms, the case is clear,'' said Presidents Ford, Carter and Bush.
Greenspan, in a letter to House Banking and Financial Services Chairman James Leach, R-Iowa, said he believed passage of the legislation was ``in the interests of the United States.''
``Our markets are already generally open to China and that will not be altered (by the China trade bill),'' Greenspan wrote in the letter released by Leach. Greenspan said passage of the bill to normalize trade relations with China ``will facilitate a further opening of China's markets to U.S. producers.''
The two-page letter by the three former presidents came as the White House, which orchestrated release of the letter, sought more clout to persuade Congress to extend permanent trade status to China and ease the Asian nation's long-sought entry into the World Trade Organization.
``The agreement to bring China into the WTO is the product of more than 13 years of tough negotiations conducted by four administrations, Democratic and Republican,'' Ford, Carter and Bush wrote.
``It builds upon a series of market-opening initiatives pursued by every president since the second world war. It will open China's markets to us without increasing China's access to our market,'' they wrote.
Presidents Ford and Carter plan to be at the White House on Tuesday with former secretaries of state and national security advisers to rally support for the legislation. If the House approves the measure in a vote expected later this month, Senate passage is likely.
Labor unions and the two top House Democratic leaders are fighting the legislation, suggesting it will hurt U.S. jobs. The Clinton administration, Republican leaders and U.S. business groups have been lobbying lawmakers for weeks to get the legislation passed.
``We've made significant progress, but there's still much work to be done,'' White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said. ``The endorsement of three former presidents should have a significant impact on members who are trying to make up their mind.''
The former presidents said failure to grant China permanent normal trade relations status would ``squander'' the best opportunity the United States has had in a generation to address long-standing concerns about China's trading practices.
They also said it would improve U.S.-China relations, make positive change within China more likely by opening doors to the information revolution and speeding up reforms that are dismantling many state controls over the economy and society.
``A vote against PNTR will make it far more difficult to attain these critical goals,'' the presidents wrote. ``It would encourage deeper tensions between Beijing and Taiwan and diminish our ability to work for Asian stability.''