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The BBC's Adam Brookes in Beijing
"China is desperate to join the world trading club"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 22 February, 2000, 13:01 GMT
China and India sign trade deal

ministers shaking hands
The Indian and Chinese ministers shake hands after signing

China and India have signed a bilateral trade agreement in Beijing on Tuesday, removing one more barrier to China's 14 year efforts to join the World Trade Organisation.

India had been one of 13 countries, along with the European Union, which had yet to reach an agreement with Beijing over China's membership of the WTO.

The agreement embodies the spirit of co-operation between China and India
Joint official statement
The Indian Commerce and Industry Minister, Murasoli Maran, and the Chinese Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, Shi Guangsheng, signed the document in front of journalists in Beijing.

The two ministers declined to give details of the accord, but hailed it as a boost to Sino-Indian relations and China's eventual WTO membership.

Indian diplomats are keen to portray it as effectively ending a period of tension between the two countries going back some two years.

'Significant step'

"The agreement embodies the spirit of co-operation between China and India, both developing countries, towards the multilateral trading system," the ministers said in a joint written statement.

Mr Maran described the agreement as "a significant step forward in bilateral trade relations."

A significant step forward in bilateral relations
Murasoli Maran, Indian Commerce Minister
Bilateral trade is currently worth around $2bn dollars a year and both sides expect that now to increase.

Mr Shi said "The current trade volume between China and India could be much higher."

Diplomats said that as part of the deal, China had agreed to lower tarriffs on a range of Indian exports, including agricultural, industrial and marine products.

Chinese negotiations

News of the agreement came as China and the European Union started a second day of talks in Beijing aimed at clinching a similar bilateral trade deal.

Agreement between the two sides would remove the biggest remaining obstacle to China's membership.

China must reach a trade agreement with all WTO members before it can join the organisation.

The US reached an historic agreement with China last November.

Correspondents say US officials are anxious for China to reach agreements with the EU and several other countries so they can send the deal to Congress for a vote.

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See also:
24 Nov 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
Analysis: China's big WTO gamble
23 Nov 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
Developing countries fight for free trade
15 Nov 99 |  The Economy
China deal to boost economy
24 Jan 00 |  Business
EU meets China on WTO deal
13 Jan 00 |  Business
US battle over China intensifies

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