A bill forcing the United States to support pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong could come to President Trump's desk once Thursday morning, potentially complicating the administration's discussions with China to end the deal. trade war.
The bill, passed by the Senate on Tuesday, would require the government to impose sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for human rights abuses in the territory. On Wednesday, the House passed Senate version 417-1, sending it to the White House.
If signed into law by Mr. Trump, the bill would also require the State Department to annually review the special autonomous status it provides in Hong Kong with regard to trade. That status is separate from relations with mainland China, and correction of status means less favorable trading conditions between the United States and Hong Kong.
The Senate passed the bill, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, with unanimous consent. The Chamber had previously passed its own version unanimously, but gave the Senate version a commitment to speed up the law. On the floor of the House on Wednesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "If America does not speak for human rights in China out of commercial interests, we are losing all moral authority to speak about human rights to others. place. "
Because the bill, in theory, has the backing of a majority affirmative veto in Congress, it can be enacted even if Mr. Trump approves it. And its implementation will likely tie China's relations with the delicate moment in trade negotiations.
Eswar Prasad, former head of the division of the International Monetary Fund & # 39; s China, said Hong Kong's involvement in the trading process could affect China's talks, which are known to be sensitive about outside political interference.
"The law further fuels the narrative of Chinese domestic policy circles that the US has attempted to violate China's sovereignty in terms of economic and political internalization," Mr. Prasad said.
Although Mr. Trump announced last month. with the United States and China coming to an "historic" so-called phase one trade agreement, signing a deal proved to be unsatisfactory. The two sides are still negotiating and could reach a deal in the next few weeks. But Mr. Trump has given mixed signals about whether he wants a deal. an Apple manufacturing facility in Texas.
The United States and China are confined to the fate of tariffs imposed by Mr. Trump on $ 360 billion of Chinese imports and additional tariffs that should be imposed on December 15. China wants. all tariffs roll back as part of an agreement whereby it will purchase $ 50 billion of American agricultural products a year and begin opening its markets to American companies.
Mr. However, Trump is reluctant to return all tariffs, and his advisers remain skeptical that China will live up to its promises.
Henrietta Treyz, director of economic policy at investment firm Veda Partners, said Hong Kong law. raised the odds that December tariffs would be imposed. He pointed to a series of caustic posts on Twitter written by the editor of The Global Times, a Chinese state-controlled newspaper, warning American farmers that Mr. Trump's deal had promised them not to yet complete. the two countries, not spreading, "said Ms. Treyz." The prospect of not reaching a deal and needing a lift from it remains real. "
The possibility that Hong Kong law may be signed into legislation has faded into Wall Street researchers' confidence that it has become increasingly optimistic in recent weeks that tariffs could roll as part of the first phase of a trade deal.
Economists at Goldman Sachs are said in a note to clients this week that Hong Kong law was a potential "complication," warning that China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs promised "strong countermeasures" if such a bill was implemented.  Trade talks, however, continued last year despite numerous spikes in tension between the United States and China, including the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wangzhou in Canada. and the sale of 66 F-16s in Taiwan this summer.
Mr. Trump, who rarely talks about human rights, does not talk about the bill, nor has made strong statements to support Hong Kong activists. In June, he told China's president, Xi Jinping, that he would not publicly back the protesters until trade talks progressed.
While Mr. Trump's advisers are debating how much tariff relief will be offered in the first phase of a trade deal, similar debates are playing out in China. The fact that the United States weighs so heavily on Hong Kong is likely to exacerbate internal tension.
"There is an ongoing debate in Beijing between reformers who want phase one and hard-liners who see themselves surrounded by hostile forces. The United States, including Hong Kong," said. by Michael Pillsbury, a Chinese scholar at the Hudson Institute who advises the Trump administration.
Ed Wong and Catie Edmondson contributed to the report.