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China: WTO Talks Will Stay Stalled

June 30, 1999

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) _ Negotiations on China joining the World Trade Organization will remain stalled until the United States gives a ``convincing explanation″ of NATO’s bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, a senior Chinese trade official said today.

Long Yongtu, China’s vice minister of foreign trade and economic cooperation, rejected a claim by U.S. Trade Representative Richard Fisher that ``the ball is in China’s court″ to resume talks on the issue.

``I do not want to be confrontational, but since he says the ball is in China’s court I would say that the ball is in the court of the United States,″ Long told reporters at a meeting of trade ministers from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Auckland.

``The bombing incident of our embassy in Belgrade has spoiled the atmosphere of negotiations,″ Long said. ``We have to get a convincing explanation of what is the cause of all these terrible things.″

The issue spilled over into the otherwise friendly Pacific Rim trade ministers meeting after Fisher said at a press conference that it was up to China to reinitiate talks on the deal.

Diplomatic relations between China and the United States were severed after satellite-guided bombs destroyed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade on May 7, during NATO’s bombing campaign to expel the Yugoslav forces from Kosovo province.

Among the ties severed after the bombing was negotiations on China’s long-awaited membership in the WTO. China has been negotiating to enter the world trade regulating body for some 13 years.

``When they have reached a point when they want to reengage on the trade talks then we are there to sit at the table and try to complete this process on a commercially meaningful basis,″ Fisher told reporters.

Long said the United States has to ``do something to provide a convincing response that ... will improve the atmosphere and that will be conducive to negotiations.″

The communist leadership suspended military contacts and talks on human rights, trade, security and arms control issues with the United States.

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