Bush Says Now is Not the Time to Grant Soviets Trade Benefits

President Bush implied Thursday that he would not mind it if he did not have to face a decision on whether to grant the Soviet Union most-favored-nation trade benefits when he meets here next week Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

“I think that there’s a political climate in this country that would make it extraordinarily difficult to grant it,” Bush said at a White House news conference.

Bush said he hoped the Soviet Union had made progress on agreeing to discuss independence for Lithuania before his four-day summit meeting with Gorbachev begins May 31. “I think many feel there’s a direct linkage there,” he said.

But Bush suggested that a decision on trade benefits “is not a bridge we’re having to cross at this juncture,” because the Soviet Union has not adopted emigration reform legislation, which he had made a condition for granting MFN status.

Secretary of State James Baker said Wednesday that although he had been told on his recent visit to Moscow that the Supreme Soviet would vote on the legislation May 31, new information indicated this would not occur on schedule.

State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said Thursday that Baker gave this assessment after learning that the calendar for the Supreme Soviet did not include the legislation for debate on May 31. She said action on the bill could still occur that day.

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