WASHINGTON – Sen. Charles Schumer said Wednesday he was dropping his objections to the confirmation of Susan Schwab as chief U.S. trade negotiator after receiving assurances the administration planned to pressure China to remove trade barriers affecting U.S. banks.
Schumer had placed a hold on Schwab's nomination, preventing the full Senate from voting on her confirmation before leaving for a weeklong Memorial Day recess. She was expected to win quick approval from the full Senate sometime this week.
President Bush nominated Schwab to succeed Rob Portman as U.S. trade representative when Portman was chosen in April to become White House budget director. He replaced Joshua Bolten, who was tapped to be Bush's chief of staff in a White House shake-up.
Schumer, D-N.Y., met with Schwab on Wednesday and said afterward that he was now satisfied that the administration was sufficiently concerned about removing barriers China has erected that prevent U.S. banks and other financial firms from expanding their operations in China.
He had blocked the nomination after he said he was disappointed in Schwab's responses to questions during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee.
"I am going to release my hold and urge everybody to vote for her," Schumer told reporters after the discussion, which included Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who had also raised questions about the administration's commitment to dealing with Chinese trade barriers.
Graham predicted the nomination would win quick approval and Schumer said that Schwab had convinced both of them that "she will be a very strong voice on opening up China's markets to financial services."
During the confirmation hearing, Schumer had complained to Schwab that the administration was not applying enough pressure to get China to live up to commitments it had made when joining the World Trade Organization on Dec. 11, 2001, that it would remove barriers to foreign banks operating in China.
Schumer had cited the apparent failure of Citigroup Inc. to win approval of its bid for a majority stake in Guandong Development Bank.
In a written response to a series of questions Schumer and Graham had posed, Schwab said that she agreed "that China's actions to date to open its financial services markets have been adequate. I can assure you that if confirmed, I will not waiver in my determination to remedy the situation."