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US, China Talks Had Light Moments

November 15, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ American negotiators who struck a major market-opening trade deal with China on Monday after six grueling days of talks in Beijing said the discussions had their lighter moments.

The team went to China expecting talks to last just two days but found themselves in day-and-night bargaining sessions that often seemed to be going nowhere. As the days wore on, U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky and Gene Sperling, President Clinton’s chief economic adviser, devised a song-for-the-day strategy to keep up the team’s spirits.

``Gene and I know a number of ... tunes. We began each morning deciding which tunes to sing,″ Barshefsky told reporters during a conference call from Hong Kong.

Among their selections: ``Please Release Me,″ ``Ain’t No Mountain High Enough″ and ``Oklahoma!″

The U.S. negotiators found themselves having to contend not only with the 13-hour time difference between Beijing and Washington, but also with a boss who was on the move.

When they reckoned Monday they had at last a final offer to present to Clinton, his chief security adviser, Sandy Berger, had to get the president out of the shower in his hotel room in Ankara, Turkey, to take the call from his negotiators.

Barshefsky said that was entirely appropriate, since she and Sperling had retreated to a women’s rest room at the Ministry of Foreign Trade for a bit of privacy to make the call.

``The president was pulled out of the shower by Sandy Berger. We were talking bathroom to bathroom,″ Barshefsky said.

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