"The decision by the U.S. Senate to grant permanent normal trade relations to the People's Republic of China solidifies access to the vast markets of China for our growers," said Vincent Lupinacci, president of Sunkist Growers, the country's largest citrus cooperative. Sunkist was the first to ship U.S. citrus to China when the market opened officially in March 2000. The passage of this legislation assures continued access. "This final legislative act assures China membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) by year-end, and will ultimately require the Chinese to abide by all the international trade rules that are adhered to by our other trading partners," Lupinacci added. The legislation, which was passed by an 83-15 vote now goes to the President for signature and enactment. It passed the House by a closer and harder fought vote in May. When China becomes a member of the WTO, U.S. citrus growers will see tariff rate reductions from 40% to 12% over the next three years and agreed-upon adherence by China to science-based phytosanitary policies including recognition of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's fruit fly quarantine parameters and eradication declarations. "Our entry into China is one of the most promising and exciting developments in recent years," said Lupinacci. "China has a population of 1.3 billion potential Sunkist consumers and we believe it will become a major market for our growers' fruit." "Passage of PNTR for China is in the best interest of the United States and of American agricultural exporters such as Sunkist Growers. We commend the Senate for its vote and thank Senators Feinstein and Boxer of California; Senators Kyl and McCain of Arizona for their votes in support of PNTR for China," he concluded. Sunkist Growers is a citrus marketing cooperative owned by 6,000 citrus growers in California and Arizona, most of whom are small family farmers.