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Tuesday, March 30, 1999 Published at 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK


Business: The Economy

China's WTO bid 'still faces hurdles'

US Commerce Secretary Daley meets Chinese PM Zhu Rongji in Beijing

Major differences still remain between China and the United States over Beijing's bid to enter the World Trade Organisation (WTO) according to US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky.


[ image: US trade representative Charlene Barshefsky: Gaps remain]
US trade representative Charlene Barshefsky: Gaps remain
Her fleeting one-day visit to Beijing on Tuesday had boosted hopes that a deal was not far away.

But after a day of talks with Chinese officials she said: "Substantial gaps remain ... in critical areas of trade and there are complex issues in front of us."

However Ms Barshefsky said that important progress had been made and further negotiations would continue.

"The United States will set no artificial deadlines in these negotiations. Progress will only be driven by substance," she added.

Hurdles to overcome

US Commerce Secretary William Daley, who is currently in China on a five-day visit, said he was confident the country would become a member of the World Trade Organisation before the organisation starts a new round of negotiations later this year.

But he echoed that a lot of hard work had still to be done in Sino-US negotiations: "This idea that somehow we're half an inch away from concluding WTO is absolutely wrong.

"I think the real difficulties in the negotiations is the financial services, very serious," he said.

Mr Daley said Washington would not be hurried into a less than satisfactory deal and was under no pressure to finalise one before the US visit of China's Prime Minister Zhu Rongji next week.

He said: "We want this to be done. We want to see the right deal. But we have been adamant for six years now that we would not be forced into a deal that may not be the right sort of deal."

Trade concessions

China, which has been pressing to join the WTO for 13 years, has reportedly offered more concessions in the last three weeks than it has in the last three years.

After years of resisting calls that it must open up its markets first, Beijing has offered concessions in several sectors.


Duncan Hewitt reports from Beijing
China has said it will liberalise the telecommunications sector, allow foreign firms to compete with China Telecom and widen the scope for competition in mobile phones.

It may be prepared to accept wheat exports from the United States, which have been blocked for years, and the government has also pledged greater access by foreign firms to the financial services sector, including banking and insurance.

China is the second-largest trading partner of the United States, and last year chalked up a trade surplus of about $60bn, up from $49.7bn in 1997.

The US government blames closed markets in China for the trade imbalance, which Mr Daley called "politically unsustainable".

He said the overriding objective of his visit to China was to expand US exports: "With a one billion dollar a week trade deficit, it's critical to get more of our products in the mainstream of China's economy."





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