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Who does best lobbying for China? Big U.S. firms

SHARE Who does best lobbying for China? Big U.S. firms

The investigation into whether China tried to buy influence in Washington has overshadowed Beijing's most effective lobbying force: U.S. businesses eager to tap the world's largest market.

Corporate America has hired lobbyists to urge favorable trade status for Beijing, underwritten trade missions and fact-finding trips for U.S. officials and enlisted the help of former diplomats, even a former president, to open doors.Trade and foreign policy professionals say China fares best when it stays in the background and lets U.S. businesses take the lead in promoting their mutual interests.

"I wish they'd stay out of it," said John Motley, lobbyist for the National Retail Federation. "They are their own worst enemy, from Tiananmen Square to Taiwan to this ham-handed attempt to try and do something in the American political arena."

In lobbying reports for 1996, the issue of renewing China's favored trade status was among the most frequently mentioned issues for U.S. corporations - which spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year trying to influence policy in the nation's capital.

The company with the most at stake, and the leader in keeping trade channels open, is aircraft maker Boeing. Company officials are traveling to China this week.

"Almost every major company in the United States has an interest in China now," said Greg Mastel of the Economic Strategy Institute, a Washington research group.

China also represents a huge prospect for American wheat, soybeans, cotton and corn, and for financial services like insurance, banking and investment.