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Signing the trump of the Hong Kong Bill could damage US-China relations



Anti-government protesters with closed faces stand at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which has been taken over by anti-government demonstrators, on November 21, 2019 in Hong Kong, China.

Laurel Chor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

US-China relations will worsen if President Donald Trump signs a pro-Hong Kong human rights law into law, said a former American ambassador to China on Thursday.

"I don't think this bill will help the protesters achieve their goals. Second, this has an impact on US-China relations. I think this will worsen relations," said Max Baucus, who was appointed as ambassador by President Barack Obama

This will also cause more uncertainty about potential trade agreements, added Baucus, who is also a former Democratic senator from Montana.

Baucus's comments came after the House of Representatives passed a pro-Hong Kong human rights bill on Wednesday, putting Trump in bond when he tried not to mess up high-risk trade talks with China.

The Chamber approved actions aimed at protecting human rights in Hong Kong by a margin of 417-1 amid attempts to crack down on anti-government protests for months. The DPR passed a second bill to ban the export of certain ammunition to Hong Kong police with the same margin.

The Senate unanimously approved the two laws, so they headed to Trump's desk after the House section. And Trump is likely to sign the bill, Baucus told CNBC "Squawk Box."

"Sounds good to American politicians. Sounds good to President Trump. (There is) a beautiful upper-line vision: standards for human rights," Baucus said.

"It is very difficult in the current political climate in Washington D.C. which has a hysterical reaction against China for not signing the human rights bill," he added.

The bill came at a difficult time for Trump, who hopes to have a Chinese trade victory to be promoted on the trail of the 2020 campaign. U.S. main stock indexes fell on Wednesday after a Reuters report that the two biggest economies in the world might not complete a "phase one" trade agreement this year.

However, a former U.S. diplomat to Beijing told CNBC on Wednesday he hoped the "first phase" agreement would be completed.

"If there is a phase one trade agreement soon, it will almost certainly be an agreement largely based on Beijing's requirements; something Beijing will want – purchases and promises, not agreements that take into account the structural process," said Robert Daly, director of the Kissinger Institute Wilson Center in China and the United States. "China will want the deal even if it feels insulted to Hong Kong."

But Baucus said China might rethink the agreement too.

"Now President Trump will go through a preliminary, if you want, the impeachment process, that is causing China, I think, to resign; they are not sure what kind of agreement they want to sign with President Trump," Baucus said.

– Jacob Pramuk from CNBC contributed to this report.


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