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Figure in China Donation Flap Served on Trade Advisory Panel

By Alan C. Miller
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

Even though fund-raiser Charles Yah Lin Trie is a central figure in the controversy over tainted - and possibly illegal - donations to President Clinton and the Democratic Party, he remains a member of a White House advisory panel on trade with Pacific nations.

Indeed, Trie's role on the 17-member commission is expected to attract as much attention as the recommendations themselves, scheduled for release Wednesday, by the Commission on United States-Pacific Trade and Investment Policy.

Trie, currently residing in Asia and refusing to cooperate with federal inquiries into the questionable political contributions, has not participated in commission deliberations since September. But he was active in the group's initial study phase, which included a 10-day trip to Asia, administration officials said.

The fact that his name will be attached to the commission's report has angered some. "It's unbelievable, both that Trie didn't resign and that the White House didn't ask him to resign," said a source familiar with the commission.

Commission Chairman Kenneth D. Brody said Monday: "We don't appoint or de-appoint the commission members. The commission is a presidential commission, appointed by the president."

The nonpartisan commission was established at the urging of Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., to review trade and investment policies in the Pacific region and recommend steps to reduce the widening trade deficit between the United States and Asian nations, including Japan and China.

Clinton's decision to put Trie, a Taiwanese immigrant, on the commission in 1995 prompted criticism that the president selected his longtime friend as a political reward rather than for his professional credentials.

Trie's participation with the commission abruptly ended after his name surfaced in news accounts of questionable contributions to the Democratic Party last fall. Justice Department investigators are examining the movement of funds to Trie. They have determined that he received large transfers in 1995 and 1996 from the state-run Bank of China, sources said.