WASHINGTON – Supporters of legislation that would penalize China because of its currency practices said Wednesday they were delaying a Senate vote on the issue in hopes President Bush could resolve the dispute while in Beijing.
Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said they had an agreement with Senate leaders to postpone the vote until at least December.
The proposal, which had the support of 67 senators on a procedural vote last spring, would impose tariffs of 27.5 percent on all Chinese goods entering the U.S. unless China did more to allow its currency to rise in value against the dollar.
U.S. manufacturers say the yuan is undervalued by as much as 40 percent, making Chinese goods cheaper in the U.S. and American products more expensive in China.
The Chinese announced in July they were allowing the yuan to rise in value by 2.1 percent, but since then the value essentially has not changed.
U.S. manufacturers say the yuan must rise much more to have any impact on the U.S. trade deficit with China. It hit a record $162 billion last year and is running at an annual rate close to $200 billion this year.
Schumer and Graham had received an earlier pledge that they could have a vote on their measure in November. But they said they felt it was inappropriate to have a vote before Bush got a chance to talk to the Chinese about the issue.
Bush, who is on a weeklong trip to Asia, will be in Beijing on Saturday and Sunday.
"We are hopeful the president's trip to China will achieve positive results," Schumer said in a Senate speech. "We hope and pray China will move."
Schumer said under the agreement with Senate leaders, the sponsors will have the right to call up the legislation for a vote before Dec. 23. They also could wait and have a vote before March 21.
Graham said he was "guardedly optimistic" Bush will make progress on the issue.