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Thursday, April 8, 1999 Published at 22:41 GMT 23:41 UK

World: Americas

No deal on China's trade status

A lighter moment at the White House news conference

A Sino-American summit in Washington has failed to reach agreement on giving China entry to the World Trade Organisation - although President Bill Clinton said "significant progress" had been made.

Rob Watson: "Difficult times between the US and China"
After a round of talks with Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, Mr Clinton said they were "not quite there yet" on China's application to the WTO, which the US has been blocking for several years.

But the two governments have set a deadline for the first time, saying they will resolve all outstanding issues by the end of the year.

  • Profile: Zhu Rongji
  • History: US-Sino relations
  • Crunch time for trade
  • Reforms at a crossroad
  • Speaking at a news conference in Washington after his meeting with Mr Zhu on Thursday, Mr Clinton criticised China's human rights record.

    He said: "It is troubling that in the past year, China has taken some steps backwards on human rights."

    Bill Clinton: "We disagree on the meaning and reach of human rights"
    Mr Clinton also said he regretted the fact that China had not opened up a dialogue with the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama.

    But he said that while the US and China had their differences over human rights and other issues, the answer was co-operation, not confrontation.

    [ image: Bill Clinton defended his China policy from Congressional attack on Wednesday]
    Bill Clinton defended his China policy from Congressional attack on Wednesday
    Mr Zhu admitted to reporters that he had been reluctant to visit the US, because of the adverse reaction he had expected.

    He said he had "lacked the guts", and had feared that his "new face" would be turned into a "bloody face".

    He strongly denied recent allegations of Chinese espionage against US nuclear facilities.

    Earlier, during a colourful official welcoming ceremoy, Mr Clinton described the visit as an important event in the history of relations between the two countries.

    Zhu Rongji (with translation): "I lacked the guts to pay the visit to the US"
    He said that China and the US could both achieve their hopes in the next century if they continued to build a "constructive strategic partnership."

    Chinese pro-democracy activists have called on Mr Clinton to push Mr Zhu to implement international human rights conventions and to allow dissidents and pro-democracy activists to return to China.

    And following recent allegations of Chinese espionage at the Los Alamos nuclear research establishment, the New York Times reported on Thursday that the US may have been victim to a second attempt to gain nuclear secrets.

    Human rights campaign

    The BBC's James Miles: "If anyone can present a positive image of Beijing, it's Zhu Rongji"
    Anti-Chinese sentiment in Congress has solidified following China's recent crackdown on dissidents who formed an opposition party.

    Campaigners say that hundreds of prisoners of conscience are still in jail, many of them seized when the army broke the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

    Lu Qing, chairman of New York-based Human Rights in China (HRIC), said: "These innocent individuals have withstood extreme suffering.

    "Their 10-year imprisonment and protracted torment must come to an end."

    In turn, China opposes US backing of a UN Human Rights resolution which attacks Beijing's human rights record - a move pushed for by Congress.

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