WASHINGTON (B)--The U.S. Senate Sept. 11 debated a nonproliferation amendment to the China trade bill, which some say would kill the main legislation if approved. A vote on the amendment, which is sponsored by Fred Thompson, R-TN, is likely Sept. 12.
Thompson's broad-ranging proposal is aimed at containing weapons proliferation activities in China, Russia and North Korea, the three countries that recent CIA reports say are key weapon developers and suppliers.
"These activities by China, Russia and North Korea pose a serious threat to the United States. And that threat is growing," Thompson said in a speech on the Senate floor.
The proposal would require annual reports to Congress on weapons proliferation activities in those three countries. If evidence of threatening activities is found, the president would be called upon to impose trade sanctions.
It would also require the president to impose sanctions on foreign companies that are involved in weapons technology transfer. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) would be required to disclose information on these companies to potential investors in U.S. debt and equity markets.
But several senators who spoke out against Thompson's proposal jumped on the SEC disclosure provisions, arguing that it meant U.S. capital markets would be used as a sanctions tool, which could undermine the stability of the financial markets.
"That is one of the nuttiest ideas I have heard in a long while," Sen. Max Baucus, D-MT.
Last May, the U.S. House approved the China trade bill, which would normalize trade relations with China on a permanent basis. Supporters say that any Senate amendments to the bill would effectively kill it for the year because there would not be time for the two chambers to work out differences between the measures.
Recently, supporters of the China bill banded together to defeat three amendments to the legislation, by wide margins.
But the Thompson amendment is considered the only one with a legitimate chance of passage. A vote on the proposal is expected Sept. 12. The Senate leadership is hoping to hold a final vote on the China trade bill by Sept. 15.