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China's Chances Of Joining WTO Not Looking Good

Beijing is making little headway with the US over efforts to avoid anti-dumping actions as part of a deal for China to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO) John Howard reports.

Gloom hangs over talks today between Beijing and Washington that could seal the fate of China's attempt to join the WTO this year.

Officials on both sides described the talks as the most important trade meetings between the two this year, but held out little hope of success.

"What we need is a miracle of political will and compromise," said pro-China lobbyists who were unwilling to be named.

"There is little hope out there for anything even like that......people are starting to say these talks are doomed before they start in terms of a swift deal," they said.

Chinese Foreign Trade Minister Shi, is due to meet his US counterpart, Trade Representative Barshefsky, for the most intensive discussions since the US bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade put negotiations on hold.

Talks between the president's of both countries at APEC in Auckland were not successful according to reports.

The Washington meetings have been cut back to just one day and Mr Shi is expected to be arriving without his lead negotiator, Long Yongtu. Mr Long's absence was being seen as a sign that Beijing wanted to step back from wider-than-expected concessions offered by Premier Zhu Rongji on a US visit in April.

Mr Shi has repeatedly said the April offerings of tariff reductions and opening of strategic markets were not confirmed and should not be seen as a fresh starting point - a point of conflict with the US side.

However, a fast deal is crucial to what remains of Beijing's hopes to join the WTO in time to take part in the ministerial meeting in Seattle in November - a session set to initiate a new global round of trade reductions. If China misses out, there is no clear timetable guiding any fresh attempt to join.

Even if the US and China agree to the trade deal necessary for WTO membership, there are increasing doubts it would be approved by Congress in time for the Seattle sessions.

Leading Republicans in the US Senate and House of Representatives have warned the window of opportunity has all but closed amid an intensifying political environment.Congress has a tight schedule before its November recess while feelings are running high against China over spying allegations, human rights abuses and a yawning trade deficit.

However, there has been a flurry of back-room activity by the extensive US business lobby that wants a quick deal to improve access to the Chinese markets. On the other side, protectionist lobbies such as the American Textile Manufacturers Institute are demanding that the US keep quotas on Chinese competitors until at least 2010 - not 2005 as proposed.

ENDS


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