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Trade, Human Rights Benefits from 'Commercial Diplomacy'

By David Holley
Los Angeles Times
BEIJING

U.S. Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown said Tuesday that a new U.S. emphasis on "commercial diplomacy" toward China is not only producing big trade deals but also progress on human rights.

A formal U.S.-China dialogue on human rights issues, suspended in the spring, will resume in late September when Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen visits the United States, Brown announced at a news conference in Beijing.

While resumption of talks will not automatically benefit Chinese dissidents, Brown treated renewal of the dialogue as a significant step forward.

Since his arrival Saturday, executives of leading U.S. corporations traveling with him have "already signed agreements with a total value of almost $5 billion," Brown said.

The overall tone of Brown's remarks Tuesday, both at the news conference and in a business lunch speech, was the warmest by any top U.S. official since the 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations.

President Clinton severed the link between human rights and trade issues in May. But Brown went further in his comments Tuesday, stressing that while the United States wants to see human rights progress here, threats are of no use.

The mood of exhilarated optimism, reminiscent of attitudes often shown by high-level U.S. delegations to China in the 1970s and 1980s, also was evident among the 24 chief executive officers of leading U.S. corporations traveling with Brown.

"I've been extremely pleased with the dialogue, with the opening up," said Leslie McCraw, chairman and chief executive officer of Fluor Corp. "The attitude of the Chinese has been exceptionally positive. ... We view China as clearly one of the great emerging market opportunities for a company like ours."

Brown's visit marks a shift of the main focus in U.S.-China relations "to business issues, commercial issues, rather than philosophical issues," McCraw said. "I think these other agendas can be addressed if we are engaged commercially."