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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended May 28, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 25May00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

LDS Church says it's neutral on China trade bill
Deseret News 24May00 N1
By Lee Davidson: Deseret News Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON, DC -- An LDS General Authority expressing strongly-held personal views apparently led some journalists to wonder if the LDS Church had taken a position on the Chinese free trade bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday. Elder Donald L. Staheli of the Seventy met with some members of Congress prior to the vote on the measure and expressed his personal opinion of the leglislation. But at least one of the members of Congress that he spoke to said that Elder Staheli made it clear that the Church wasn't taking a position.

But because of the publicity, the LDS Church issued a statement yesterday indicating that it had no position on the legislation. "The church has taken no position on the PNTR legislation pending before Congress, and the First Presidency has expressed no opinion and made no requests with respect to it. In this matter, as in all others, the church expects that all lawmakers will vote their consciences and their views of the best interest of their country," the statement said.

A subsequent statement to the Deseret News clarified the situation, "Donald L. Staheli has long-established relationships with China going back over 20 years, including serving as former chairman of the U.S.-China Business Council. His communications reflected strongly held personal views on the importance of trade in improving international relationships, human rights, and religious freedoms." Staheli, second counselor in the Central North America Area Presidency, once headed a large grain company. Grain companies tended to favor the legislation because it opened foreign markets to their products.

Meanwhile, LDS members of the House generally voted for the measure, with the exception of Utah representative Merrill Cook. Cook has historically voted against liberalizing trade with China because of human rights concerns. In addition to Utah's other Republican congressmen, Chris Cannon and Jim Hansen, other LDS congressmen voting for the measure included California Republicans McKeon and Packard and Oklahoma Republican Ernest Istook. Among non-LDS Mormons, both of the Udalls, Mark Udall of Colorado and Tom Udall of New Mexico, both Democrats, voted against the bill.

The vote comes less than a month following the recommendation of the U.S. Commission on International Relations that the U.S. delay giving China permanent normal trade relations status. Commission vice chairman Michael Young, an LDS Church member and Dean of the Georgetown University School of Law in Washington DC, said at the time, "We have not said China should not be granted PNTR. We have said that it should make substantial improvements in religious freedom before Congress votes to do so or before PNTR takes effect."

See also:

LDS Commissioner Calls China Peril To Religion


First Presidency Reaffirms Policy on Pending Legislation
LDS Church Press Release 23May00 N1


China Trade Relations Working Group


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