Trump says trade talks com­pli­cate Hong Kong sup­port bill

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By David J. Lynch

WASHINGTON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump sug­gested Friday that he might veto leg­is­la­tion de­signed to sup­port pro-democ­racy protesters in Hong Kong — de­spite its near-unan­i­mous sup­port in the House and Se­nate — to pave the way for a trade deal with China.

Speak­ing on the “Fox & Friends” morn­ing TV pro­gram, the pres­i­dent said he was balanc­ing com­pet­ing pri­or­i­ties in the U.S.-China re­la­tion­ship.

“We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also stand­ing with Pres­i­dent Xi (Jin­ping); he’s a friend of mine. He’s an in­cred­i­ble guy, but we have to stand ... I’d like to see them work it out, OK?” the pres­i­dent said. “I stand with free­dom, I stand with all of the things that I want to do, but we are also in the process of mak­ing one of the largest trade deals in his­tory. And if we could do that, it would be great.”

Trump also as­serted that if it weren’t for him, China would have re­sponded to the un­rest in Hong Kong with bru­tal­ity, po­ten­tially killing thou­sands in the process. “The only rea­son he’s not go­ing in is be­cause I’m say­ing, ‘It’s go­ing to af­fect our trade deal, you don’t want to do that,’ ” Trump said.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Demo­cratic mi­nor­ity leader, slammed Trump’s re­fusal to com­mit to the leg­is­la­tion.

“For a guy who promised to be tough on China, Pres­i­dent Trump’s re­li­able def­er­ence to Pres­i­dent Xi is all the more be­wil­der­ing,” Schumer said. “Be­ing tough on China when it comes to hu­man rights will also help us win the bat­tle on trade.”

China has warned it will re­tal­i­ate against the U.S. if Trump signs the bill sup­port­ing the Hong Kong protests.

The House on Wed­nes­day passed the Hong Kong Hu­man Rights and Democ­racy Act by a vote of 417-1. The lone hold­out was Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky. That came one day af­ter the Se­nate had ap­proved the bill on a unan­i­mous vote.

The veto-proof ma­jori­ties in­di­cate that Congress could over­rule the pres­i­dent if he tries to block the bill from be­com­ing law.

“If he does veto this bill, sac­ri­fic­ing Amer­i­can val­ues in the process, Congress should im­medi

ately and over­whelm­ingly over­ride,” tweeted Scott Paul, the pres­i­dent of the Al­liance for Amer­i­can Man­u­fac­tur­ing, who has of­ten backed Trump’s trade poli­cies.

Once a bill is passed by both cham­bers of Congress, the pres­i­dent has 10 days to sign it into law or veto it. If he does nei­ther, it will be­come law au­to­mat­i­cally. That means Trump has un­til af­ter Thanks­giv­ing to make a de­ci­sion.

The leg­is­la­tion au­tho­rizes sanc­tions on Chi­nese and Hong Kong of­fi­cials in­volved in hu­man rights abuses and re­quires the State Depart­ment to con­duct an an­nual re­view of the spe­cial au­ton­o­mous sta­tus that the U.S. grants Hong Kong in trade mat­ters.

The Hong Kong bill threat­ens to com­pli­cate trade ne­go­ti­a­tions that al­ready are stalled on sev­eral key is­sues. Chi­nese of­fi­cials have crit­i­cized the con­gres­sional ac­tion as un­wanted in­ter­fer­ence in their coun­try’s in­ter­nal affairs. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence said this week it would be “very hard” to fi­nal­ize a trade deal if China re­sorts to vi­o­lence to put down the protests, now in their sixth month.

China re­gained sovereignt­y over Hong Kong in 1997, end­ing more than 150 years of Bri­tish colo­nial rule. Main­tain­ing con­trol over the pros­per­ous en­clave, which Bei­jing gov­erns un­der “the one-coun­try, two-sys­tems frame­work,” is a top pri­or­ity for Xi.

Mean­while in Hong Kong, protesters trick­led out of a be­sieged uni­ver­sity cam­pus Friday as a week­long siege ap­peared close to an end, while the city geared up for lo­cal elec­tions that pose a test of pub­lic sup­port for the prodemoc­racy move­ment. Associated Press con­trib­uted.

NI­CO­LAS AS­FOURI/GETTY-AFP

Hong Kong of­fice work­ers sup­port pro-democ­racy protesters in a lunchtime rally Friday.

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