By Martin Vaughan

Trade Representative Schwab said Wednesday it is probable that Congress will address legislation next year to restrict imports from China, and warned lawmakers to “be wary of quick fixes for complex international challenges.”

“It is likely that both houses of Congress will grapple with this legislation related to currency, trade remedies, product safety, and enforcement,” Schwab said in a speech to the Independent Women’s Forum.

“They are crude tools for our complex tasks. They focus on the wrong issues and are likely to do nothing to help or could even hurt American workers, farmers and entrepreneurs that they purport to help,” she continued.

As late as June, key Senate sponsors of legislation to spur China to let its yuan rise in value more quickly said a vote in 2007 on Chinese currency legislation was a near-certainty.

“I don’t see how this doesn’t pass the Senate and the House by a veto-proof majority,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said when his legislation was unveiled.

But a jurisdictional dispute between two key Senate chairmen, opposition from the White House and divisions among supporters of China currency legislation about the best approach combined to slow action on the bill.

The Senate’s Finance and Banking committees got as far as marking up competing measures, while the House Ways and Means Committee did not mark up a currency bill this year.

Schwab said congressional inaction on China trade measures might be in part an acknowledgment that administration efforts to negotiate trade policy changes with China are succeeding.

Last week, China announced it would end subsidies the United States challenged in a World Trade Organization dispute case.

She noted that U.S. export growth has accelerated substantially this year, helped by growth in the Japanese and European economies.

“I’d like to think that I’m wrong” about China legislation next year, she said, adding, “There is perhaps a more robust debate going on; we’ll see.”

In her speech, Schwab urged lawmakers more generally to reject the temptation to blame imports for all economic woes.

“Three centuries ago, Thomas Hobbes proclaimed life ‘nasty, brutish and short.’ Today, we have [CNN anchor] Lou Dobbs presenting life as unfair, isolationist and doomed,” she said.