President Bush has taken the final step necessary to normalize U.S. trade relations with China. He has signed a proclamation granting permanent normal trade status to Beijing.

The president signed the proclamation with little fanfare at his Texas ranch.

The signing was not a surprise. Congress approved former President Bill Clinton's decision to offer permanent normal trade status to China last year. But the new status could not go into effect until the Chinese joined the World Trade Organization.

In November, President Bush informed Congress that Beijing's agreement to join the WTO was sound, and just a few weeks ago China became a formal member.

The official proclamation was the last step in the process, granting China permanent normal trade status as of January 1. It also terminated application of the Jackson-Vanik law, which bars normal trade with communist countries that restrict emigration.

It took more than a decade of negotiations and debate to reach this point. As part of its bid to join the WTO, China had to reach an agreement on tariffs and market access with the United States. Those tough talks took place against the backdrop of an ongoing battle in the U.S. Congress over trade ties.