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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton Flip-Flops on China, WTO

WASHINGTON -- After coming under strong criticism for backing away from a trade deal with China over domestic politics, U.S. President Bill Clinton moved to restart negotiations, telephoning the visiting Chinese prime minister to set new talks for Beijing this month.

The White House announced the effort as Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, who has complained repeatedly about the failure to reach a deal during his tour of the United States, was visiting New York on Tuesday before heading to Canada. Zhu had spent much of his day lobbying business executives about the benefits of a trade accord.

At a dinner in New York on Tuesday night sponsored by the Economic Club, Zhu said he had told Clinton during their telephone call that: "I feel very confident that in the near future we will see the successful conclusion of negotiations that are favorable to both sides - but especially to the United States."

Clinton's phone call to the Chinese leader followed a meeting Monday at which nearly two dozen business executives lobbied the White House to emphasize how important the deal was to American companies seeking access to the world's largest market.

"They were happy with the progress we made but were worried that the deal would not come to fruition," an administration official said. The official said Clinton's telephone call, which lasted about 20 minutes, was intended to send a signal to the business community that the White House was doing all it could to seal the deal and as a signal it intended to lock China into concessions it had made on numerous trade issues.

China's entry into the World Trade Organization, the group that determines the rules for global commerce, was the prize that Zhu came seeking but was denied after talks collapsed at the last minute. Some administration officials said that anti-China sentiment on Capitol Hill was so intense that they thought they could not get any deal through.