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Thursday, 12 October, 2000, 19:37 GMT 20:37 UK
China tries to clear WTO hurdles
Chinese premier Zhu Rongji
Premier Zhu Rongji says China will honour its commitments
US trade officials are to meet with a Chinese delegation on Friday as China tries to clear the last hurdles to membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

China's Premier Zhu Rongji has stressed his government's intention to meet its WTO commitments, US trade negotiator Charlene Barshefsky said on Thursday.

"He made absolutely crystal clear, emphatically and with animation that China would not back away from any agreement, absolutely not," Ms Barshefsky said.

The US and European Union still hope that China can join the WTO this year but fear exists that China may backtrack on key concessions.

Ms Barshefsky - visiting China in an attempt to iron out last minute obstacles to WTO membership - said that the problems China had encountered in earlier talks could be overcome.

China's move

"The speed with which this can be done really depends on China," Ms Barshefsky said.

"Every country that accedes would like to do less rather than more. China's no exception to that," she said.

"China is not being asked to provide more details than other accession countries. Accessions are by definition very detailed because [the WTO must ensure] the commitments you make are obtainable," Ms Barshefsky said.

The European Union external trade commissioner Chris Patten voiced his hopes that a deal could be reached.

"We hoped that we had reached a comprehensive agreement with China this summer...But there are still some problems," he said.

The prize for Beijing if it concedes to WTO demands is the prospect of influence over the body that regulates global commerce and a guarantee of entry to all important markets on favourable terms for Chinese exports.

The rest of the world will gain access to the Chinese market, potentially one of the world's largest with 1.3 billion consumers.

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See also:

11 Oct 00 | Business
Why US-China trade matters
19 Sep 00 | Business
China clears final trade hurdle
23 May 00 | Business
China's US trade critics
11 Oct 00 | Americas
China hails US trade deal
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