U.S. threatens China with economic sanctions Move made despite fears of complicating issues


WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration has warned China that it risks the imposition of stiff economic sanctions in the next few months because it has ignored previous warnings and continues to violate a key trade agreement signed a year ago.

The warning, made after a series of White House meetings in recent days to reassess the administration's China policy, comes despite considerable concern from some U.S. officials that prompting a confrontation over China's piracy of American software, music and videos could harm Washington's effort to defuse growing tensions between China and Taiwan.

Those officials also fear that the trade dispute could hamper U.S. efforts to persuade China that it must end its crackdown on dissidents and stop the sale of missiles and other military hardware in South Asia and the Middle East.

But in the end, Mr. Clinton's economic and trade advisers, led by Mickey Kantor, the trade representative, persuaded the White House that American credibility with China and other trading partners would be jeopardized if Beijing is permitted to flagrantly ignore its agreement to close more than 30 compact-disk factories that are exporting millions of dollars worth of illegal copies of American products.

Mr. Kantor has warned China that the sanctions could be as large as 100 percent tariffs on more than a billion dollars in Chinese imports.

But White House officials, still nervous about how hard to press ++ Beijing, say they will not determine the details of the sanctions, or their timing, until negotiations that begin in the coming week are completed.

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