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Metcalf bucks Boeing on big China trade vote

"Congressman Jack Metcalf returned to his maverick ways Wednesday when he was the lone member of the Washington delegation to vote no on a bill to liberalize trade with China.Metcalf described the vote as probably my most important vote as a member of this body, adding that I come from perhaps the most China trade-affected district in America.In his state Senate and House days, Metcalf prided himself on his maverick label, often choosing to vote his conscience rather than the party line. In voting no on China he bucked the Boeing Co., the Second Congressional District's largest employer with its huge Everett airliner plant just a few air miles away from Metcalf's Langley home, as well as every other Congressman from Washington.Metcalf voted against a bill called Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China. It passed 237-197 and now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass readily. It will become law with the signature of President Bill Clinton, a strong supporter of the measure.Metcalf didn't announce his decision until the day before the vote, but in April his intentions were clear when he spoke to a group of South Whidbey homeschool students. He told them that he disagreed with two-thirds of the citizens in his district and opposed the China trade bill. A report of that meeting in the April 29 South Whidbey Record prompted a call from Lew Moore, Metcalf's chief of staff in Washington, D.C. Moore doubted Metcalf would have made such a statement, but in the end the congressman's vote reflected the beliefs he expressed to the young students.In a news release Tuesday, Metcalf noted that he voted for positive trade relations with China each of the last five years. But he objected to the Permanent Normal Trade Relations.What is different this year, is the bill is permanent, Metcalf said. He would prefer to review the trade policy on an annual basis, hoping it will keep what he calls the Chinese militarists who currently control the Chinese government in line.According to Metcalf, China has gone out of its way to challenge American strategic interests. In February, China threatened long range missile strikes against the U.S. over the Taiwan issue. Later in the same month, a Chinese defense minister threatened to attack U.S. aircraft carriers if they came near the Taiwan Straits. And in April, a Chinese military publication threatened neutron bomb attacks against the U.S.Besides such boisterous statements, Metcalf said the present $70 billion trade surplus China enjoys with the U.S. is funding an arms build up which is directly challenging American allies, American interests and America itself.Proponents of the trade bill wanted access to the huge Chinese market and believe that increased trade will open up the country to new ideas. Press accounts quote President Clinton as saying, At this stage in China's development, we will have more positive influence with an outstretched hand than with a clenched fist.Metcalf is finishing his third two-year term in Congress. He is not running again. Announced candidates for his seat are John Koster, a Republican who has already received Metcalf's endorsement, and Democrat Rick Larsen. Both are from Snohomish County."

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